On Saturday, the world of children’s literature lost another beloved author. Within a day of her death, the news had been posted and tweeted. On Friday, April 19, E.L. Konisberg died at age 83 from complications of a stroke she had suffered the previous week. She is the only writer to have received both the Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor in the same year.
From the Mixed Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler, about two children who run away and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art was the first of her books that I encountered but not the last. My dad tried for years to obtain a new hardcover edition of two books, which as an adult I finally picked up at a library sale: Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. (Yes, that really is its title!) and Father’s Arcane daughter. Several years ago, when my dad decided to start a family discussion group to introduce my younger siblings to children’s classics, the first book I introduced them to was A View from Saturday, about a sixth-grade school competition.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The beauty of the internet is one can often find out lots of info about an author. From Wikipedia, one of my favorite quotes by Konisberg is: The kids I write about are asking for the same things I wanted. They want two contradictory things. They want to be the same as everyone else, and they want to be different from everyone else. They want acceptance for both.” And from Publishers Weekly, I learned that Konisberg bucked the trends for women at the time and studied chemistry. Being familiar with her non-conforming characters, this tidbit about Konisberg doesn’t surprise me. At the same, I found it intriguing that she used E.L. because she thought it was important that readers not know her gender. Apparently, today she would use her first name.
My personal collection of Konisberg’s books is growing, but I have to admit being most influenced by From the Mixed-Up Files. Although I myself would be too nervous to hide out in any building that belonged to someone else, one day I’ll write a fan fiction where a character does just that.