Critical Thinking in Literature Read Aloud #1

We always want our students to engage in critical thinking - creative thinking, too! But, did you know how many fantastic books are out there that demonstrate creative and critical thinking? This first post in a series about critical thinking in literature shares how The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler fits this type of book. Read the post for more details!


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 were 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 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…

Today, I am starting a series of posts on great read alouds in which the characters demonstrate critical and creative thinking.

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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Naturally, I am starting with From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Because this is an older book with a goofy title, you may have overlooked it or just forgotten how amazing a book it is. In a nutshell this is about two children who run away from home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which leads them to solve a mystery involving Michelangelo.  Here are some reasons you should consider reading it to your class:

  • The main character, Claudia Kincaid, is all about thinking critically and creatively. She planned everything about her escape carefully and chose such an unusual and interesting place to run away to.
  • Her chosen partner (and her brother), Jamie, is a nice contrast to her character. He is smart, too, but in a whole different way than Claudia.
  • The book fosters an appreciation for museums. If you can actually visit this museum, then having read the book will make it so much more meaningful.
  • The title character is a smart and eccentric 82-year-old woman. Nothing like the grandmother stereotype.
  • There is a mystery. Claudia and Jamie have to solve it, and it takes some thinking outside of the box to do it.
  • Because the book takes place in 1968, there is much to talk about in terms of a world without cell phones and the internet. In fact, the book would probably not even have been possible if Claudia and Jamie had had access to the internet. They had to actually solve the mystery themselves instead of googling it.
  • The book is a Newbery Award winner. Also, for those in your class who are always looking for a new author, Konigsburg has written many other books.

This was actually one of my very favorite books as a child. I love that it is still being enjoyed by kids today!

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