One of the most important aspects of children’s literature, something that makes a book a great book is the idea of children accomplishing something. If the protagonist in the story finds themselves in a predicament which requires adults to get them out, it becomes a bad children’s story. Of course there are exceptions but, for the most part, this is true. We all know that children cannot do everything they set their minds to, but we can certainly write stories for them involving children that do great things on their own. From the Mixed-Up Files is a great example of this.
Claudia is tired of living in her house, tired of being the older sister and not being appreciated by her siblings and parents. She sets her mind to running away and invites her little brother along for the company and his good use with money. Quite a bit of planning is involved in this endeavor and they find themselves living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art when a statue, rumored to have been the creation of Michelangelo, arrives and is put on display. The children find themselves more than curious about this statue.
Admittedly, the story does end with some help from Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, but that help being attributed to the findings and escapades of Claudia and Jamie. Much admiration is to be bestowed upon the siblings for their successful “running away.” Children need more stories like this, in which they are empowered to do more than their minds can imagine. Maybe we shouldn’t encourage them to run away from home, though. . .
by E.L. Konigsburg
Originally published in 1967