I want to give a plug for E. L. Konigsburg’s charming, insightful children’s novel, From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. It’s a gem.

Claudia Kincaid is “one month under twelve” when she decides to run away from home. Here is how the story begins:

“Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics where untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running away from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably, a beautiful place. And that’s why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.”

Claudia invites her younger brother Jamie along because he has some cash. Incredibly, their elaborate plan works and once they are settled in 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 Michelangelo. Or is it?

Claudia and Jamie work clandestinely to discover the truth. But along the way Claudia begins to realize the real reason why she ran away—a truth she is discovering about herself. “When I go home, I want to be different. A different Claudia Kincaid” she tells Jamie.

E. L. Konigsburg began writing children’s books once her three kids were all in school. In 1968 she won the Newbery Medal for From The Mixed-up Files and in the same year, her novel, Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, won Newbery Honorable Mention. (She’s the only writer ever to accomplish that double win in one year.) In 1997, she won another Newbery Medal for The View From Saturday.

I like what critic Marah Gubar said of Konigsburg, that she “was committed to depicting young people as capable knowers of what goes on in their own minds, homes, and the wider world they inhabit. Bad things happen in her novels when adults fail to respect this competence.”

It’s true. Her novels help us have greater understanding and respect for what goes on inside kids’ heads.