Saturday, May 25, 2019

Reading And Walking: From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Welcome to Reading and Walking, where I go for a stroll and attempt to listen to an entire audiobook. I’m going to review the book and show you what I saw on my walk. Simple, right? For this adventure, I chose to listen to From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. I chose it because it won the Newbery Medal in 1968, and it’s short. The audiobook is 3 hours, 46 minutes. I knew I could walk for that long and finish the book in one afternoon.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Genre: Realistic middlegrade
Pages: 178 (3hr 46min audiobook)
Publication date: 1967
Content warning: Stealing, runaway children, mention of suicide
Available at: Amazon | Book Depository
*This post contains affiliate links. I earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere—to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing her younger brother Jamie has money and thus can help her with a serious cash-flow problem, she invites him along.

Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at auction for a bargain price of $225. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it?

Claudia is determined to find out. Her quest leads her to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue, and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

While listening to the book, I walked along Sulphur Gulch Trail. I know “Sulphur Gulch” sounds like an unpleasant place to walk, but there’s actually no sulfur in the gulch. The place got its name from the odd yellow rocks that explorers found in the area. I would have taken photos of the rocks, but I didn’t see any because mistakes were made. A really long time ago, mapmakers mixed up Sulphur Gulch with another nearby gulch. This is why double-checking your work is important, kids. Sulphur Gulch Trail does not actually go through Sulphur Gulch.

The majority of the trail winds through a town, which means I didn’t see much wildlife. I mostly saw the backsides of buildings. Apartment buildings, auto mechanics, grocery stores. Yeah, it’s not the most scenic place to explore. When I set out down the trail, it was about 60°F (15.5°C) and muggy from a night of rain and hail.


More apartments. This town has approximately one quadrillion apartments, and I walked past them all.

Artwork and an abandoned shopping cart under a bridge.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler stars eleven-year-old Claudia Kincaid and her younger brother, Jamie. The kids feel unappreciated by their parents and are sick of doing chores. They want to have adventures and be part of something important, so they run away and attempt to live inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. This novel is like The Boxcar Children for upper-class urban kids in the 1960s. Claudia and Jamie have to figure out how to survive while avoiding museum security.

This novel would appeal to kids for the same reasons that The Boxcar Children does. I think most kids wonder what it would be like to live somewhere awesome without adult supervision. Claudia and Jamie learn that living on their own isn’t as fun as it sounds. They have to make food and do laundry, just like at home. You can’t run from chores.

I love the curiosity of the main characters. While they’re living in the museum, they join tour groups and ask thoughtful questions. Education is important to them. I also like that they want to make a difference in the world. When the museum acquires a mysterious new statue, they start a secret investigation to find out who sculpted it.

The book has funny moments that will keep kids engaged. Jamie carries around $24 dollars in loose change. The coins are so heavy that they keep pulling his pants down. The main characters have opposite personalities that lead to amusing conversations. Claudia is very logical, but she loves spending money. Jamie wants to keep his $24, but he enjoys creating “complications” that make life difficult.

I did see a few critters! These are swallow nests under a bridge. The ruler at the bottom of the photo is used for measuring flood heights. Gulches tend to flood often.

A brave (or stupid) prairie dog. This one barked and flailed around while its friends ran from me.

Since I’m an adult, I have quibbles with From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler that younger readers might not notice. First, we never get a good explanation of why Claudia chose the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She doesn’t seem overly interested in art until she sees the mystery statue. I’ve never been to New York, but I’m sure it has several elegant buildings. Why’d she choose that particular elegant building?

Second, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’s motivations didn’t make sense to me. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but she gifts something extremely valuable to a couple of children who she just met.

Third, the child characters face no consequences for running away. The reader doesn’t get to see the reunion with their parents, and we never learn what happens when the kids get home. The kids know that their parents are frantically trying to find them, but they don’t care.

This is one of those books that I would have enjoyed more if I’d read it as a kid. I would have gotten wrapped up in the mystery and ignored everything else. I can see why so many children love this story. It’s about funny, independent kids trying to solve a mystery that will change the art world.

A railroad crossing for a railroad that doesn't exist anymore.

These clouds are about to rain on me . . . .

Yeah, I'm going to get drenched.

My walk down Sulphur Gulch Trail ended at a library. I didn’t plan to visit the library. It just happened because I seem to have an internal magnet that drags me to wherever books live. By the time I got to the library, I had walked through a rainstorm, so of course I had to go inside. I’m happy that libraries have low standards about who they let in because I was a mess. I was sweaty and soaked from the rain. I’m sure they were thrilled to have me pawing through their books.

My walk (plus library interlude) took over 4 hours. In that time, I finished a whole audiobook and walked nearly 9 miles (14.4 k). I spent the next day hobbling around on sore feet, but I’m ready to go reading and walking again.

The outdoors dried while I looked at books.

A statue near the library.

What’s the farthest you’ve ever walked?


  1. Wow, you are a dedicated walker/listener! I think it's hilarious that the trail doesn't go to Sulphur Gulch. Oops! (We have a road near here that was called the Elgin/O'Hare, but it didn't get you to either Elgin OR O'Hare---the plan was to expand it later to get there, but finally after like ten or fifteen years, they just changed the name. LOL!)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  2. Wow, that sounds like an adventure! haha, so good thanks for sharing. I loved the book you chose and the walk you had in the rain of all the darndest. Sorry you got caught in it. We have statues like that girl in our city but I've never walked 9 miles. I can imagine you were tired. I probably can walk 5 miles on a good day. I hope you make more of these blogs and encounter some more interesting things. I gotta get a camera.

  3. Hahahha AJ the first time that I saw prairie dogs it was in Denver! They are so funny with one on the watch and alerting every other prairie dog in the vicinity! Now funny how you seem to find libraries indeed! You must have ink instead of blood!

  4. I loved this book as a kid because I loved the idea of living in a museum. What a fun idea to 'read' and walk at the same time. Love all the pics you posted! :)

  5. I love everything about this! The walk, the pictures, the book... I once walked almost nine miles in a day. No audiobook, just music for part of the walk and my son for the other. :)

    So, I agree with you about the book. I think it's one of those books that works better for kids than it does for adults. As adults, we're looking at it with grown-up eyes, going, "OMG WHY IS THERE NO MASSIVE NATIONWIDE MANHUNT FOR THESE KIDS?????? Their parents must be absolutely frantic!", but kids are like, "Taking nighttime cold baths in a fountain and picking up coins for cafeteria food? COOL!" I remember thinking the same thing when I reread My Side of the Mountain with my son a few years back; when his parents finally come to visit, they're like, "Hey, good for you, you've done awesome things up here," whereas real parents would've been all, "WE THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!!1!!1!1!"

    (I had similar reactions to reading Pippi Longstocking to my daughter earlier this year. Pippi no longer seemed amusing and whimsical; Pippi seemed naughty and exhausting, lol.)

    It's definitely a great book for kids, and I love that there are authors who can still write great books that work so well for kids, even if it leaves us adults grumbling boring, grown-up things. ;)

    This is a wonderful post. :)

  6. I love this idea of a post, but my current audio book is about 11 hours and my next one is 36 hours... but I listen to them in the car and gym... As for how far I’ve walked, that’s a loaded question? In a day, month, year? I’ve done some serious walking, but one day when hiking the Appalachian Trail and in PA, I did 36 miles with a nearly empty pack as I was going into town to resupply (and the trail was mostly level).

  7. You know I squealed when I saw the prairie dog. I love them! You're hard core with these walks. Nine miles is quite a walk. I loved this book, and was so excited when my daughter read it. I think she was in 2nd or 3rd grade. She then insisted I bring her to the Met, and was disappointed that all that remained of the bed was a brochure describing it.

  8. It's interesting to hear the insides of a town. If I took a walk around my town, I could tell you quite a lot about the homeless and some facts about the parks and where they got their names. We'd probably see a lot of abandoned lime-wire scooters and bikes because people deposit them everywhere after their finished with the ride and the app.

  9. I laughed at your description of Sulphur Gulch! Whoops! The prairie dogs is so cute! I love them! The book sounds cute, but I don't think it would be for me. Your walk sounds so nice though! I don't think I've ever just gone out for a 9 mile walk, but I've definitely walked that far in a day at Disney World before.

  10. Ha, I love that the kids discover that they still have to do chores even though they've run away from home! There are definitely lots of places to run away to in NYC, but I think the Met was a good choice!

  11. I have a feeling that book was read to me in 3rd or 4th grade, and I really liked it.

    I've done some 12 mile hikes back when I was in shape. Now I'm only good for a couple of miles--and that's if it's fairly flat.

    I don't think I've ever seen prairie dogs outside of a zoo. Mildly jealous.

  12. What a cute wee furry guy! That's a lot of swallow nests too and they are gorgeous little birds.

  13. Hi AJ - I liked reading your review ... and could see the book being made into a film - your telling made it, for me, feel it could be. I've done a few long walks ... but not many. Interesting to see the tour of your home area - and then the library ... a good stopping point. Interesting about Sulphur Gulch ... love the name - cheers Hilary

  14. This is such a cool idea, I need to try this, I could get more exercise. The pics are lovely and the story sounds pretty good!

  15. The most I think I've walked in a day is about 20 miles.

    I think I want to do this starting next month. Not for a whole book... but my last day of work is Friday and one of the things I want to incorporate into my new schedule is an hour-ish of exercise a day. This would be a great way to do this. I recently got an audible membership and I've been getting a lot of books and those Audible originals I haven't gotten to. Going out and walking would be a great way to do this, and Central Colorado has such nice long urban trails! If you don't want to drive, you can always leave from your house.

  16. Sounds like you had a great time. And I love the pictures of the critters.

  17. I absolutely loved this book as a kid. I think because I already had a deep love for it, that when I read it as an adult with one of my students for her reading group, it was easy for me to put those adult-ish questions aside. I definitely agree that reading this as a kid, you probably also would have enjoyed it more.

  18. I have The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler on my Kindle ready to read for my ongoing Newbery challenge; which I have read zero towards so far this year. I too hate children's stories where the younsters' actions don't have consequences. 😏

    I love things like the railroad sign with no railroad. 🚂

    When I was young there used to be a March of Dimes walk where you got pledges per mile you walked. I did one in junior high school with four friends which was supposed to be 20 miles, but ended up being 26! Anyway, only myself and one of my other friends finished. I missed two days of school after that because I could hardly walk. 😛