Beloved children’s author E.L. Konigsburg passed away last weekend at the age of 83. Her stories had a huge influence on my childhood; here are 3 of my favorites.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Probably her most famous book, which won the Newbery Award in 1968: two children run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. It is the kind of idealistic childhood fantasy that most children (myself included) indulge in, but that is not to say that the book is simplistic or juvenile. The characters are beautifully developed from the opening lines, and the mystery surrounding the Angel sculpture will never be never fully resolved (you may trust Mrs. Frankweiler’s files, but I like to do my own research). I love the way art is depicted in kind of a magical way. Here is wonderful newsletter from the museum itself regarding the book.
A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver
This book cemented my love for historical fiction. It is the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine, told by herself and close friends looking down from heaven. Not only does it present an interesting version of how heaven/purgatory work, it is a great (child-appropriate) look into a fascinating time in history (the Crusades, Robin Hood, the Knights Templar, Magna Carta, etc.) featuring a strong female protagonist. Eleanor was quite a lady. In fact, the name Eleanor, so popular in the Middle Ages, may have originated with her. (I suspect she was one of those people you either love or hate.) I had a wonderful dorky moment when I was studying abroad in Spain; I got a little giddy when I was able to see the tomb of her daughter Eleanor (Leonor) of Castile at Las Huelgas in Burgos.
The View from Saturday
This is one of those books that came to me just at the right time in my life. I was attending a gifted sixth-grade in Florida, and oh, how these characters spoke to me. Especially Nadia, a redhead who loves animals and says “hey” like a Floridian. And Julian, the outsider. And Ethan, the quiet one. Even Noah, who just seems fun to be around. I love how there are so many little details to be gleaned from her books, like how turtles migrate to the Sargasso Sea, or that “posh” could be an acronym for Port Out, Starboard Home. My parents actually have an autographed copy of this book (we have relatives in Jacksonville, where Mrs. Konigsburg lived for many years).