So I just mosey on down to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
May 18, 2017 10:11 AM   Subscribe

"A half-century ago, a girl and brother ran away to New York City from their suburban Connecticut home. And the Metropolitan Museum of Art hasn’t been the same since."

"Konigsburg recalled seeing a single piece of popcorn on a blue silk chair behind a velvet rope at the museum and musing that someone snuck in at night for a fancy snack. She also recalls an ill-fated family picnic at Yellowstone Park. As ants got all over the salami sandwiches, the sun melted the cupcake icing and her kids whined, and she realized if her brood ever ran away, they would have to land somewhere utterly civilized."

From the Smithsonian Magazine, "The True Story Behind Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Her Mixed-Up Files."

Previously.
posted by gingerbeer (40 comments total) 85 users marked this as a favorite
 
I loved this book
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 10:17 AM on May 18 [5 favorites]


One of my most favorite childhood books. Also helped fuel a deep fever love for museums and being a general nerd. Such a fun adventure book!
posted by yueliang at 10:17 AM on May 18 [4 favorites]


Absolutely loved this book.
posted by chavenet at 10:18 AM on May 18


Oh man, I LOVED this book.
posted by Catbunny at 10:27 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


I got to go to a night-time event at the Met a couple of years ago. They had guards posted all along our approved route, presumably to prevent any would-be escapees from tedious adult career events into classics of children's literature. I was disappointed.

Though I personally would have moved into the Lehman collection, in the back. There's a plump sofa back there perfect for snoozing.
posted by praemunire at 10:28 AM on May 18 [4 favorites]


THIS BOOK.

Oh boy did it fuel some amazing fantasies... my family lived just close enough to the city that we made regular visits to the MMA. I had gooseflesh eyeballing the coin-filled fountains while we waited in line for the cafe, and the sight of those big beds in the medieval section was almost too much. Of course I said nothing to my family lest they suspect my plans...

I was lucky to grow up in a museum-loving family. The True Story made my feelings towards museums grow exponentially and they have never faded. No words adequate for the love I feel for this book.

Thanks for posting!
posted by kinnakeet at 10:28 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


This thread is going to be 90% "OMG I loved this book!"

And that is right and good because it's an awesome book. All hail.
posted by rewil at 10:32 AM on May 18 [30 favorites]


It's a book!?

I only know the Ingrid Bergman movie, which I love, cannot wait to read this.
posted by Cosine at 10:43 AM on May 18


And there's no fountain there anymore. :( Nor at the Museum of Science Boston, or many other locations. Must have been a trend in the 60s.
posted by Melismata at 10:44 AM on May 18


There's a fountain in the restored Greek and Roman galleries on the main floor, though. You can always toss a coin in there, if you're feeling rebellious.
posted by praemunire at 10:52 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


I gave a copy of this to my Archives professor. When he asked why, I told him it was the only YA novel (that I knew of) whose plot revolved around Records Management.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:14 AM on May 18 [30 favorites]


> And there's no fountain there anymore.

Apparently the original fountain is now at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrell Inlets, SC, according to the article.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:24 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


This thread is going to be 90% "OMG I loved this book!"

I gave a copy of this to my Archives professor. When he asked why, I told him it was the only YA novel (that I knew of) whose plot revolved around Records Management.


I honestly thought that 90% of this thread was going to be "OMG this book is part of why I'm a librarian." Regardless, it is much, much beloved among my librarian social circle.
posted by librarianamy at 12:07 PM on May 18 [5 favorites]


I AIN'T WEARIN' ANY UNDERWEAR
I AIN'T WEARIN' ANY UNDERWEAR
I AIN'T WEARIN' ANY UNDERWEAR
I AIN'T WEARIN' ANY UNDERWEAR

Okay Ima go read the article now. Just had to say that.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 12:15 PM on May 18 [5 favorites]


Not sure what it says about me that a kids book and a Bongwater song are my main touchstones for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:20 PM on May 18 [4 favorites]


There are several fountains; there's a big reflecting pool surrounding the Egyptian temple; there's a fountain with koi in it in the moon-viewing garden in the Asian wing; and a trickly fountain in Middle Eastern; and the one in Greek and Roman. There are several dry fonts and sarcophagi you could also hide something in if you were a scofflaw/book protagonist. There's too many people around and the guards have a direct line of sight of all of them, so you'd have to get really lucky with your toss. (Which you shouldn't do because it's a cleaning problem and it's bad for the koi, but still.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:44 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Love love love this book.

I grew up in Chicago instead of NYC, so my childhood fantasies centered around escaping to the Museum of Science and Industry or the Field Museum of Natural History. I would have had a hard time choosing between the two, but I guess I could have alternated.

As an adult though I'd probably opt for the Art Institute of Chicago, it's my favorite place to visit in town and I think the furniture selection might be a little better.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 12:47 PM on May 18 [4 favorites]


My fourth grade teacher read this book aloud to our class every day after lunch, and I can vividly remember listening to her voice with my head down on my desk and the lights out in the classroom.
I've read it several times since then and still adore it. In fact, I almost named the cat I adopted in December "Claudia" after Claudia Kincaid, but once I got to know her I realized it wasn't quite the right fit. (She actually turned out to be a perfect "Phoebe")
posted by bookmammal at 12:49 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


Um... I can't not say it. I LOVED this book!

Aaah, that felt good.
posted by xammerboy at 2:27 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Ooh, I just gave this book to an ESL student of mine who loves museums and totally romanticises New York City and I am so excited to hear what she has to say about it!
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:32 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]


In my head this always also gets combined with the Sesame Street special where they get stuck in the same museum overnight, a family favorite. Maybe someday I'll go to New York and visit. :)
posted by epersonae at 2:41 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]


To this day, every time I hear or read the word "crush" I immediately think of Claudia berating Jamie for saying "crushed up" with regard to the velvet imprint. Yes, I LOVED this book.

Konigsburg and Raskin and Blume, the three voices of my childhood.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:11 PM on May 18 [4 favorites]


I haven't been to a museum since the first time I read this book where I didn't figure out where I'd sleep if I stayed there.
posted by padraigin at 3:43 PM on May 18 [13 favorites]


I love this book so much and read it a jillion times as a kid. I wanted to be Claudia, desperately.

I will admit that reading it along with my child, however, made me realize that the backdrop of the tale is utterly terrifying: the parents side of the story, with their children missing for weeks? It's horrifying. (Not that I stopped reading it to him. And he loved it, as well he should.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:34 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


To be honest this book is the second one I think about when I imagine my life after the apocalypse.

The first is, of course, The Girl Who Owned a City.
posted by bendy at 5:45 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]


I'll say it too: I love this book!

When I went to New York City for the first time, as an adult, I was struck by a distinct feeling of déjà vu. I was enchanted by EVERYTHING--the streets, the neighbourhoods, the green spaces, the museums, the delis and corner shops and diners, the subway system--partly because they all felt so familiar to me.

Later, I realized it was because I had grown up on a steady diet of New York City-based children's books like Harriet the Spy, The Cricket in Times Square, Stuart Little, All-of-a-Kind Family, Freaky Friday, archy and mehitabel*, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and of course From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I definitely did not grow up in a place even remotely like New York--I am not even American!--but I am sure if my family and I had been plucked up and deposited there when I was a kid, I probably would have felt at home. (Especially if we had actually gone to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)

*okay, not actually children's literature but I did love it as a child
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:51 PM on May 18 [9 favorites]


If I tell people what my job is, and they reference this instead of Night at the Museum I immediately like and respect them.


If they reference Night at the Museum they need to work to get back in my good graces.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:02 PM on May 18 [8 favorites]


I too loved this book!

"Ooh, I just gave this book to an ESL student of mine who loves museums and totally romanticises New York City and I am so excited to hear what she has to say about it!"

REPORT BACK! ("Hello, student, the internet would like your report on the awesomeness of this book, kthx.")

"I gave a copy of this to my Archives professor."

Did he offer a review?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:06 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


Be right back. I have some bills to pay and I need to take a looong bath tonight.
posted by sol at 7:33 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


It is really interesting how the stories about the stories shift and change too. In the earlier obit thread, I posted a comment in which I quoted part of a leaflet she'd written about the origins of the Mixed-Up Files. It doesn't exactly contradict the explanation in this article, but amplifies it somewhat.

Anyhow thanks for the post, I had not realised there was a movie based on it! I shall now have to search it out.
...
There were two! Also a 1995 Hallmark movie with Lauren Bacall. Don't know how good it is but any enthusiasts can find out.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:05 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


I helped edit this! I got so excited when another editor at Smithsonian sent me the pitch that I actually yelped out loud and immediately begged him to accept it.
posted by mynameisluka at 10:36 PM on May 18 [12 favorites]


+1 Loved this book. Would/should read again.

This was one of the books that fueled my constant childhood fantasies of running away and surviving in an utterly different world. Though that world was more often less "civilized" than Ms. Konigsberg's choice, partly due to a heavy mix of Jean Craighead George's My Side of the Mountain and Scott O'Dell books.

Also loved The View from Saturday. My copy is still nestled in-between more "grown-up" novels on my highest bookshelf, which is a shrine to my favorite and most life-changing books.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 12:56 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I liked the book a lot BUT I always wondered why they didn't sleep in the Temple of Dendur because it literally did not occur to me that you could possibly pick a bed, however historic and comfortable, over an Egyptian temple. Why even bother running away to a museum with an Egyptian temple in it if you're NOT GOING TO SLEEP IN THE EGYPTIAN TEMPLE? My husband also won't come to the Egyptian wing of the Met with me anymore because he says I take too long.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:40 AM on May 19 [6 favorites]


I am old enough to have spent many hours at the Met unaccompanied by adults, though often with other kids. This was when I was 8 and 9. We did dare each other to sit on the beds but I only recall sitting on one bed for about five seconds. By 10 I was out in the suburbs and a family friend gave me this book which of course I loved!
posted by maggiemaggie at 9:55 AM on May 19


I just reread this book a month or so ago and it was an utter delight. I was a Claudia as a child, I am a Claudia now, my vacations tend to involve planning spreadsheets.
posted by Stacey at 10:03 AM on May 19


My sister and I read our copy of this book to absolute rags! It had the 1967 cover, and we saved it long after it fell off and got lacy around the edges.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:40 PM on May 19


Yep, loved this book! I read it to tatters as well, and spent years, as a kid dragged along on errands or trips with my parents, plotting how I'd manage to pull this off in a mall, in museums, in box stores... And actually, sometimes I still imagine it.
posted by TwoStride at 6:30 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Sometimes when I can't sleep I remember this passage, from their first night in the museum:

Instead of oxygen and stress, Claudia thought now of hushed and quiet words: glide, fur, banana, peace.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:53 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


I grew up in Chicago instead of NYC, so my childhood fantasies centered around escaping to the Museum of Science and Industry or the Field Museum of Natural History.

It was always the Field Museum for me!

Sometimes when I can't sleep I remember this passage, from their first night in the museum

Me, too!
posted by lazuli at 12:56 PM on May 20


I adored this book, though my fantasies revolved not so much around running away to a museum (I was quite content at home) but someday having a filing system like Mrs. Frankweiler's. Not sure what that says about me.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:48 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


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