From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Mother/Daughter Book Group for Fourth-Graders! Our book: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. An excellent discussion with a most excellent group of little lit-lovers today! We covered so much, but what really got me excited was my Aha! Moment—the reason I do what I do!—when I saw, from our group conversation, something in the story that I hadn’t seen when I read it on my own: Secrets! And how very hard they are to keep!!!

Remember my criteria:

1. The Story. Well, who couldn’t love this story about two suburban schoolchildren who run away from home—in style! They don’t just run anywhere; they run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and they live there without anyone finding them!

2. Questions. Lots of them! We stayed in the book, and came out of it. One of our favorite out of the book questions was “if you were to run away (NOT recommended), where would you go?” This is a harder question than at first it looks!

3. Life Lessons. Well, we really dug deep and came up with the realization that secrets, of which there are many in this story, are very hard to keep. Why do you think that is? We determined that we feel special when we know a secret. We feel different from everyone else. Why, then, do we feel compelled to share the secret? (I wonder…do we always need an audience, someone to tell us that “yes, you are special”?) We also realized that you can look at the entire book as Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler revealing her secret to Saxonberg! I think that if you really think about it, you’ll agree—secrets are hard to keep secret!

There are many other lessons to take away from this story, but my favorite comes from E.L. Konigsburg herself, written as an afterword in 2002 (for the 35th anniversary of the book). She says, “ ‘Angel’ became part of Claudia’s story about finding herself, about how the greatest adventure lies not in running away but in looking inside, and the greatest discovery is not in finding out who made a statue but in finding out what makes you.”

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