Twelve-year-old Claudia Kincaid is fed up with her family, so she enlists her little brother Jamie to run away with her to the Metropolitan Musuem of Art in New York where the two sleep in one of the beds on display, bathe in the museum’s fountain, and uncover an art mystery involving a Michelangelo sculpture. That’s the plot of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg, one of my favorite childhood books and now one of my daughter’s favorites, too.
On our recent trip to NYC, we made a point to get to the Met to follow in Claudia and Jamie’s footsteps. There’s not much need for arm-twisting to get our kids to go to museums, but the fact that we were visiting a place from a book just added a layer to the experience. In addition to all the specific rooms and areas we wanted to visit, we looked for Claudia and Jamie places. Could this be the fountain where they took a bath?
When conversation about or interest in the art waned, we could always revert back to talking about the book.We were nearly at the end before we found the bed we imagined they must have slept in (in the book).
We were even able to tie in some interest in another book: Chasing Vermeer by Blue Bailett, another art history mystery that was inspired by From the Mixed Up Files. The Met has five Vermeers, the largest number in any collection. Since both the kids had listened to Chasing Vermeer in the audio book version, it made seeing the paintings more meaningful and they even remembered obscure facts about Vermeer that I couldn’t have told you.