I was sad to learn about the recent loss of E.L. Konigsburg, a talented author of children’s books, and wanted to pass along my thoughts and gratitude for her literary gifts.
I first found out about the author when I chose one of her books for a novel study for my grade 6 reading group, with the inviting title of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. In the story, a sister and brother get so frustrated with their parents that they decide to run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. They survive there using ingenious ways, and do extensive research at the museum and at the library about a fascinating but mysterious marble statue of an angel. When their money runs out they courageously travel to Connecticut to find Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the benefactor of the statue, who puts them to work to find information about the angel in her strangely-organized set of files.
Although the author got her college degree in chemistry, and taught science for several years, Mrs. Elaine Lobl Konigsburg was more interested in understanding the inner struggles and questions that all children and teens have about their selves and their lives, no matter what their background, or how hard or easy their lives have been. She wrote with humor, compassion and imagination, and I certainly had no trouble motivating my struggling 6th grade readers to read and study Mixed-Up Files.
The author has been duly recognized for her excellence in writing. In 1968, she won the only double honor in Newberry Award history. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was Konigsburg’s second published book, submitted to her publisher nearly the same time as her first book, Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. Mixed-Up Files won the top award, the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature, and Jennifer, Hecate won a Newbery Honor . The National Education Association named Mixed-Up Files one of its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children” and the School Library Journal called it one of the “Top 100 Chapter Books” of all time in 2012. Konigsburg’s The View from Saturday won the 1997 Newbery Medal, nearly 30 years after her first Newbery Medal.
I was surprised to learn that Mixed-Up Files was made into several movies, which I look forward to watching, and for my own little celebration of her life, I’ll be reading The View from Saturday.
Thank you, E.L. Konigsburg, for all you have left behind to give people of all ages greater understanding and compassion for each other.