Unfortunately, the book wasn't a big hit with the students in my Battle of the Books group. I can see why. There isn't a lot of gripping action. It's a simple story. The mystery is good though if you appreciate art!
This book is a Newberry winner. I sure would like to be in some of those meetings where they pick the Newberry winners. I'd love to hear their reasoning.
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.
I thought the author did a great job of Claudia's reasons to run away. She feels unappreciated and thinks running away will teach her parents a good lesson. After all, how is it fair that she has to both unload the dishwasher AND set the table? Mothers everywhere would snicker. Children everywhere would nod their heads in agreement!
I also thought Claudia was really good at picking good resources. She chose the particular brother she did simply because he was good with money. That's important when you're heading out on your own for the first time.
Chapter 9: Claudia is talking to Mrs. Frankweiler about her running away. Mrs. Frankweiler wants her to tell her where they stayed, but Claudia doesn't want to tell her.
...If I tell, then I know for sure that my adventure is over. And I don't want it to be over until I'm sure I've had enough."
"The adventure is over. Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough. Except the part you carry with you. It's the same as going on vacation. Some people spend all their time on a vacation taking pictures so that when they get home they can show their friends evidence that they had a good time. They don't pause to let the vacation enter inside of them and take that home."
I continued, "Returning with a secret is what she really wants. Angel had a secret and that made her exciting, important. Claudia doesn't want adventure. She likes baths and feeling comfortable too much for that kind of thing. Secrets are the kind of adventure she needs. Secrets are safe, and they do much to make you different. On the inside where it counts. I won't actually be getting a secret from you; I'll be getting details. I'm a collector of all kinds of things besides art," I said, pointing to my files.
And on learning (also from chapter 9):
Claudia is telling Mrs. Frankweiler that you should try to learn something every day:
"No," I answered, "I don't agree with that. I think that you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to well up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, that you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It's hollow."