Running away with a purpose

UnknownFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler (1968 Newbery Award), E L Konigsburg.

Whenever any of my mother’s six children threatened to run away, because of some perceived slight, she would always offer to pack a bag for us. When it was my turn, I ran away to the attic. Not very imaginative, I know, but it was a comforting place, full of barrels of clothing (saved for hand-me-downs), holiday decorations, stacks of old National Geographics, and a small, full bookcase (mine was a family that could never discard a book — the attic was our literary dumping ground).

Could I have done what Claudia and Jamie Kincaid do in this book? Run away to an art museum? No. That took planning, so that running away could not be an impulsive reaction to a bit of metaphorical rain. Planning is Claudia’s specialty, including knowing that her younger brother Jamie was her best partner, since he had the funds. With her know-how and his financial acumen, they made the perfect team. And they ran, from their home in Greenwich, CT, all the way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Ever wanted to try out the furniture in a museum? Ever wanted to wade in a fountain, hide something in a sarcophagus, spend as much time as you desired (barring the occasional interruption from a guard walking her rounds) staring at your favorite work of art? Claudia and Jamie could do all this and more. I’m not recommending you follow their example by moving into a museum, but you can’t deny the appeal. Also, with so many school groups wandering around, who’s going to notice a couple of stray kids? It’s (almost) the perfect crime.

UnknownClaudia’s reasons for running away were typical, but her reason for staying away wasn’t. As she tells Jamie, “I didn’t run away to come home the same.” It was the accidental discovery of a museum mystery, the sculpture of an angel that might have been by Michelangelo — or designed by him and executed by someone else — or designed and executed by someone else — that gave Claudia her purpose. She would solve the mystery and go home different.

You can read the MMA’s Museum Kids publication inspired by Konigsburg’s book, which includes her statement about how she came to write it.

Newbery Fun Fact: Of all the double Newbery winners, Konigsburg has the largest gap: 29 years between this novel and her next winner, The View from Saturday, in 1997.

About Lizzie Ross

in no particular order: author, teacher, cyclist, world traveler, single parent. oh, and i read. a lot.
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2 Responses to Running away with a purpose

  1. A great book. I was never much for running away, myself, but during my younger brother’s attempts, I did enjoy helping pack all of his clothes into paper grocery sacks, and then try to figure out how he could carry them all on his bicycle. Guess we weren’t quite as good at it as Claudia!

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