E. L. Konigsburg

Children's book author
Born: Feb. 10, 1930
Birthplace: New York, N.Y.

Born in New York City, Elaine Lobl grew up in small towns in Pennsylvania. She was the first member of her family to attend college, where she received a degree in chemistry. She and her husband moved to Jacksonville, Fla., where she taught science at a private girls' school. It was then, she says, that “I began to suspect that chemistry was not my field when I became more interested in what was going on inside my students' heads than what was going on inside the test tubes.” The Konigsburgs had three children; when they were school age, their mother began her writing career: “I wanted to tell about the suburban kids, comfortable/uncomfortable kids, that I had taught once and that I was raising now.” She met with instant success. Her first book Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth, was selected as a Newbery Honor book in 1968, and that same year, her second book, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, won the Newbery Medal, one of the most prestigious children's book awards. The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is Konigsburg's most celebrated book, and is one of the all-time classic tales of children's or young adult literature, and was also adapted for film. The book centers on Claudia, a somewhat lonely and under-appreciated 10 year old, who runs away from home with her little brother Jamie, and sets up temporary residence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There Claudia encounters a beautiful statue of an angel with mysterious origins, and decides to devote herself to uncovering its secrets. The search leads to an unlikely friendship with the rich, eccentric Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler that changes Claudia's outlook on life. Three decades and more than a dozen books later, Konigsburg won another Newbery Medal in 1997 for A View from Saturday, a story of four sixth graders who become part of the winning Academic Bowl team. Why their teacher, Mrs. Olinski, chose these four for the team—none of whom were considered the smartest or most ambitious kids in their class—is part of the mystery. Konigsburg's large body of work captures the sensibility and inner life of her young heroes and heroines, and illustrates their longings, pain, and moments of triumph with extraordinary depth, sympathy, and humor.

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