Remembering E.L. Konigsburg
Beloved children's author E.L. Konisgburg died April 19 at the age of 83. She was one of only five authors who won the Newbery honor twice. She won it for the first time in 1968 for what is probably her best known novel, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. It would be almost thirty years before she would win it again in 1997 for The View from Saturday.
Over the last few years I've been revisiting classic children's literature. I've been reading books that I didn't read when I was a child and rereading books I don't quite remember as well as I'd like. As shocking as it may be, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was one of those books I couldn't quite remember. I believe that an elementary school teacher had read it to our class. A couple of years ago, on a lovely June day, I parked myself on my deck with a cold drink and fell into Claudia's world.
For a few hours, I was in that magical place of childhood again. It's the place where the most improbable things can happen but you believe they are possible. You believe that children can live in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art for days and not be detected. You believe that all mysteries can be solved. You learn -- again -- that children have more power than they think they do and how very magical that discovery is for them.
It's that grasping of their own power and the strength of Koninsburg's female characters that so many bloggers are remembering when they hear the news of her passing. Here are just a few blog posts that remember the wonderful literary works of this talented author.
From Becky Levine:
"Konigsburg wrote about the sixties and the seventies while she was living in them. Okay, a lot of authors did that. But she wrote about them as though she lived those years as a child. I was not Claudia. I was not Elizabeth. I didn’t live in a big city. I didn’t live in an apartment. I didn’t roam around said big city by myself or with a friend. I didn’t have adventures, and I didn’t take my make-believe much beyond my bedroom or my books. But when I read those books that Konigsburg wrote about the years, I was young, I feel like I am reading about my world at that time."
In Diane Zachler's post "A Proud Taste for E.L. Konigsburg" she recalls her first trip to the Met:
"I was 20 when I finally got to the Met, and I walked from room to room seeing it through Claudia’s eyes. A couple of years later, I wrote my first novel, about a girl who runs away to live in Central Park. Like most first novels, it was completely unpublishable (a lack of originality was not its biggest problem), but it just goes to show: the influence of a great story lives on in its readers."
Reads for Keeps remembers the things from our own childhood that Konigsburg captured so well:
"She understood the excitement and distinction of having a secret of your very own, and the charm of swimming after-hours in a fountain for coins. She captured that conflicting sense of wanting to belong and longing to be accepted as an individual. And she offered us reassurance that outsiders like Noah, Ethan, Fiona, and Julian can find friendship without relinquishing their sense of self."
Shaunta at Story Carnivores says goodbye to E.L. Konigsburg and thanks her for helping her discover her own power:
"My parents were going through the kind of divorce that involves private detectives and social workers. I can remember feeling some kind of relief knowing that at least in this book, kids like Claudia Kincaid (and me) could do something important. It was my first real inkling that children could have power."
One of the most touching memories I've read of E.L. Konigsburg comes from Jan Devereux. She went to school with Konigsburg's son. She remembers meeting the author as a child and how Konigsburg's first books made an impact on her as a girl. From her post, Thank You, Mrs. Konigsburg (and Ross):
"Like insecure Elizabeth, the first novel’s narrator, I loved and admired Jennifer because she dared to be different than the “phony” popular girls at school. I wished I could be a free-spirited iconoclast like Jennifer, but I also hated standing out – which I feared I already did for my high grades, my success in competitive sports, and my prettiness (even if I didn’t brush my hair enough to please my mother). Oh, how I longed to be popular, or at least to have a loyal and adoring best friend like Elizabeth. "
What is your favorite Konigsburg book?