The story of two children who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the "Met"), From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is one of the most beloved young adult novels of all time.
Inspiration for the novel came from numerous sources in author E.L. Konigsburg's life. During the 1960s, Konigsburg would drop her children off at the galleries of the Met while she took a painting class elsewhere in the museum. After she finished, she would reunite with her children and the four of them would tour the museum together; this sparked her interest in the Met. In 1965, The New York Times carried a story about a plaster and stucco statue that dated to the Renaissance, purchased by the museum for only $225. This is the origin of the Angel statue in the story.
The characters in The Mixed-Up Files were inspired by Konigsburg's own children; after they complained bitterly during a trip to Yellowstone, Konigsburg reasoned that if they ever wanted to run away, it would have to be to somewhere luxurious, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Mixed-Up Files stood out among books of its era (the 1960s) in virtue of depicting family discord and a complex, somewhat difficult female character, Claudia. Female characters in books from that time were generally docile, while Claudia is relentless in her pursuit of perfection and difference. Konigsburg was inspired by her personal experiences, as well as by those of her dissatisfied middle-class female students.
The novel has won numerous awards, including the Newbery Medal. It was also chosen as one of the School Library Journal One Hundred Books that Shaped the Century, and remains a staple on the reading lists of many courses.
The Mixed-Up Files has caused such interest in the Met that the museum devoted an entire issue of their children's magazine to the book in 2001. This edition of the magazine provided the history and background of the art objects that Claudia and Jamie encountered on their adventure.
The novel has been adapted into two films; the first was released in 1973 and starred Ingrid Bergman, and the second, released in 1995, starred Lauren Bacall. Neither film received rave reviews.