Claudia wants to be appreciated. She's the oldest of four kids and the only girl in the family. She has to take out everyone's trash even when her brother empties his pencil sharpener in it. She really is living in appalling conditions.
In an act of upper middle class suburban pre-teen rebellion, she formulates a very detailed plan to runaway from home in order to teach her family to appreciate the sacrifices she makes for them. (The pencil shavings! Good god, the pencil shavings!) The girl plans out her trip more throughly than the Apollo 13 astronauts. She knows where she'll be and when. The plan is to hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You certainly can't expect a runaway to rough it, can you?
Miss Claudia does understand that she'll need funding for meals and her hot chocolate sundae habit. (Claudia Kishi? Is that you?) Because she cares about the welfare of her siblings, Claudia involves her second brother, Jamie, in her plan. Jamie's strength is that he's a third grade card shark and he has a transistor radio. Without much question or consideration for consequences, Jamie agrees to the plan.
The departure is planned for music lesson day at school. That way they can pack extra clothing inside their music cases. Claudia's violin and Jamie's trumpet are hidden away and clean socks and underwear take their places. They sit together near the back of the school bus and hide until the bus driver parks the bus and leaves for the day. From there, they simply take the train into New York and walk right into the museum. Easy peasy.
As always, Claudia plans to stay in comfort. It's not enough that she's living with room after room of after. Nope. Claudia chooses a medieval bed for her and Jamie to sleep in. (Am I just a terrible bed maker or would it be super hard to remake that bed every morning so that the museum staff was none the wiser?) Every morning and evening, they hide out in the bathrooms until the museum staff has gone about their business of opening and closing the place.
The entire runaway adventure is not as much fun as Claudia anticipated. Even at the museum, she's still planning things. Exactly what she was trying to escape. There is no event to signal her that it is time to go home. Instead, she and Jamie spend their days tagging along with class tour groups so they can learn while they're there. Jamie is tight fisted with the money when all Claudia wants is a damn hot chocolate sundae. Every night, they bathe in the museum fountain and fish coins out of the bottom. The routine is still there. Claudia is no more liberated than she was before leaving home.
One day, the museum is having a huge hullabaloo. There's a new sculpture, Angel, that is believed to be a previously unknown Michelangelo. Art experts are trying to prove its origins, and enormous crowds are flocking to the museum to see the piece. Claudia becomes obsessed with it. It is her twelve year old mission to figure out if the sculpture is really Michelangelo's work. Never mind the experts from around the world. Claudia did take an art appreciation course at the Y last summer. She's got it.
An article in the New York Times gives Claudia and Jamie the name of the previous owner of Angel--one Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The museum staff bought the undocumented sculpture at an auction for only $225. If it's truly by Michelangelo, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a fool. Right? Information on the sculpture is gathered. Woo.
Jamie loosens the purse strings to get Claudia a post office box under the name Michael Angleo. Clever, eh? Claudia writes a letter to the museum staff about a clue! she's found. When Angel was moved, an impression was left on the velvet covered pedestal. The impression matches Michelangelo's signature, as discovered when Claudia the slave driver forced Jamie to spend an afternoon doing research at the public library. (She's clearly taking this running away seriously.) The museum staff responds that their art experts are aware of the signature and are investigating its validity. Well. That went nowhere.
The next plan is to contact Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Turns out, she lives way the hell out of New York. Claudia and Jamie hop a train and then a taxi to get to her mansion. (Can you hear Jamie weeping as his hard earned pennies are blown on a taxi when Claudia could have hitch hiked her ass there?) Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler turns out to be a pretty cool old lady. She treats the kids like adults and isn't weirded out when Claudia, who was supposed to be peeing, takes a bath in something other than a museum fountain.
Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler makes Claudia and Jamie a deal. The answer to Angel's origins is in her mixed-up files. She'll give them one hour to find it. Claudia gives a little speech about haste making waste. She outlines the files that Jamie and she should go through. They're pretty obvious choices--Michelangelo, Angel, Renaissance Art, and what not. At the very last minute, Claudia--inspired by Jamie's constant use of "Baloney!"--looks in the files for Bologna, the city that the news article reported Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler bought the sculpture in around WWII.
That's a bingo! Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is in possession of a document verifying that Angel was sculpted by Michelangelo. In exchange for that information, the kiddos had to tell Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler all about how they managed to hide out in the museum for so long.
Mrs. BEF is super interested in the kids' story. So much so that she remembers a newspaper clipping she saved about some kids from the 'burbs that ran away. Her lawyer, Saxonberg, has been fretting about the same kids, his grandchildren. While Claudia and Jamie were looking for the Michelangelo file, Mrs. BEF was busy calling Saxonberg up to let him know that his grandchildren were safe with her and that she would be driving them home the next day. After she gets their story.
In exchange for the story and as a reward for finding the document varifying the origins of Angel, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler promises to have Saxonberg/Grandpa change her will to leave the document to Claudia. After her death, Claudia can decide if she wants to reveal that Angel is a real Michelangelo or to keep the secret to herself. Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, though, says that she and Claudia are a lot alike--they both enjoy having a secret--so the choice will not be as simple as it sounds.
Claudia and Jamie get home safely.
- Confession: I have a terrible attention span. I remember struggling to read anything Konigsburg wrote. Still true. I finished the book and was completely confused. Who the hell was Saxonberg? What did he have to do with Claudia's grandpa? Wait. That was covered the very first page. Yep.
- I never finished The View from Saturday. I was beat by a children's book. *hangsheadinshame*
- I'm amused that the running away budget is so small. It's made up entirely of loose change. Every time they find a dime--or a quarter!--in the fountain, Jamie and Claudia say that someone very rich must have made that wish. Pennies really are making a difference for them. Ah, 1964.