Tuesday, April 23, 2013

a storyteller worth remembering.

e.l. konigsburg
was the author of one of my all-time favorite childhood books,
from the mixed-up files of mrs. basil e. frankweiler.

i tried reading it aloud to my daughter
when she was younger, but she wasn't into it
[much to my disappointment].
luckily, her younger brother was;
i just finished reading it to him a week ago.

& now e.l. konigsburg is gone.

the children's author & illustrator,
the only author to have won the american library association's
john newbery medal for distinguished children's literature
& been the runner-up the same year [1968],
died friday, april 19th, due to complications from a stroke.

she was 83yo.

elaine lobl [which is what e.l. stood for]
was born in 1930 in manhattan, the second of three children
in a modest, hard-working, blue-collar family.
elaine graduated as valedictorian of her pennsylvania high-school class,
& began working to save toward her eventual college studies.

while working as a bookkeeper in a local meatpacking plant,
elaine met david konigsburg, the owner's brother.
they married in 1952. elaine earned her chemistry degree
at carnegie institute of technology [the first person
in her family to do so], david completed his doctorate
in psychology at the university of pittsburgh, &
the couple moved to jacksonville, florida to start their family.

once her children, paul, laurie & ross, went to school,
elaine lobl konigsburg began writing.

her first book, jennifer, hecate, macbeth, william mckinley
and me, elizabeth
, earned the 1968 newbery honors as the runner-up to
her second book, from the mixed-up files.
from the mixed-up files was inspired by her children's gripes
about a picnic with abundant amenities of home; e.l. inferred
if the children ever ran away, they would never consider
going anywhere less elegant than the metropolitan museum of art.

e.l. won the newbery medal again 29 years later, in 1997,
for the view from saturday, making her one of only five authors
to win two newberys, & the author with the longest period between awards.

e.l. also wrote two finalists for the national book award
in children's categories: in 1974, the historical novel
a proud taste for scarlet and miniver; & in 1980,
the short-story collection throwing shadows.
in the 1990s, she authored & illustrated three picture books
featuring her own grandchildren.

e.l. konigsburg's writing was known for its wit,
outsider perspective, & plotlines venturing fearlessly into
unfamiliar epochs, fantastic scenarios & nightmarish situations.

children's books, she once said, are "the key to
the accumulated wisdom, wit , gossip, truth,
myth, history, philosophy, & recipes for salting potatoes
during the past 6,000 years of civilization."

e.l. lost her husband in 2001, so she leaves behind
her three children & five grandchildren,
& many generations of grateful young readers.

claire mysko wrote a lovely posthumous piece celebrating
e.l. konigsburg & my favorite book of hers:
"10 life lessons from the book
from the mixed-up files of mrs. basil e. frankweiler
my favorite life lesson:

yes, you are brilliant. take the compliment.
it always struck me that claudia
totally got what made her amazing.
she owned it.
the girl really, truly liked herself.
& that made me really, truly like her.
at a time when so many of us agonize over insecurities
& shy away from taking credit for our abilities,
claudia's self-assurance is a reminder that
we should all step up & claim our bragging rights.

thank you, e.l. konigsburg, for stepping up
& owning your potential, & creating wonderful ways
to urge us to do the same.

image source: metmuseum.org.

1 comment:

Susan K. Morrow said...

I didn't know she wrote Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth--I'm going to have to go back and read that one again. Loved Mixed-Up Files! This is a lovely tribute. Thank you for sharing!