From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Written and illustrated by E.L. Konigsburg
Turtleback Books, 1967
This is a classic children's chapter book, and winner of the 1968 Newbery Medal and the 1968 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. It is sometimes considered a mystery, but might better be classified under general fiction, as the mystery is not a particularly compelling part of the plot.
Sixth grader Claudia Kincaid is fed up with her boring, middle-class life and her annoying family. So she decides to run away. She is pretty savvy, so she makes sure she has everything planned out well in advance. She will take a minimum of clothes and supplies and buy what she needs when she gets where she is going. In order to do this, she also takes her younger brother, who, by her standards, is fairly well-off financially.
They run off to the big city, New York, and take up residency in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After settling in and getting used to life in the museum, they find a mystery to investigate. The museum has recently acquired a statue that looks like it may be a Michelangelo, and Claudia thinks she may have some clues that the experts have missed.
This novel is to some extent an exemplar of what a good children's book used to be: a good book, with good characters, that just isn't written as well as a novel for adults might be. The narrator is just a bit too omniscient, given that she is also a character in the the book, the plot works but is a bit lumpy from an aesthetic viewpoint, and the author doesn't get as deeply into any aspect of the story as she could.
The moral of the story, developed in some detail, is that running away doesn't fix things -- you need to spend some time thinking about what you really want before you can fix things. This falls a bit flat, perhaps, when it turns out that all that Claudia needs to 'fix things' is to have a secret... which seems a bit anticlimactic. And given what the secret turns out to be, not something very achievable by the readers.
The strength of the characters and the interesting setting keep this in the running as a good read for 8-10 year old children, but it is no longer a book that I generally recommend to kids. However, if you have kids who like a good 'real world' adventure and interesting settings, this is certainly worth the read.
Accelerated Reader Level 4.7