A tribute to E.L. Konigsburg

The eyes of the children’s literature world will be on Philadelphia on Monday, January 27 as the year’s most outstanding books for children are recognized at the American Library Association’s annual Midwinter Meeting.

Beginning at 8 a.m., more than 20 awards will be announced, including the Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Printz, Schneider Family, Pura Belpre and Stonewall awards.

The eyes of the authors and illustrators whose works are in contention will be on their phones, waiting for that predawn phone call, from one of the committee members involved in this momentous decision.

According to Newbery Medal winner Linda Sue Park, who received the award in 2002 for her beautiful story, A Single Shard, there are only five authors who have received that life-altering phone call twice. Yep, you read that right. Twice.

They are;

Joseph Krumgold, And Now Miguel, (1954) and Onion John (1960)

Elizabeth George Speare, The Witch of Blackbird Pond (1959) and The Bronze Bow (1962)

E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1968) and The View from Saturday (1997)

Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia (1978) and Jacob Have I Loved (1981)

Lois Lowry, Number the Stars (1990) and The Giver (1994)

And, there is just one author who, when she picked up the phone in 1968, learned that she was not only the Newbery Medal winner, but also a recipient of the Newbery Honor book award as well for her title, Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth.

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That person is none other than the author who inspired and continues to inspire this group of middle-grade authors, E.L. Konigsburg.

She was born Elaine Lobl in New York City, one of three daughters. The family moved to various mill towns in western Pennsylvania. Elaine, who graduated at the top of her high school class, made a nontraditional choice (for women of that time) and attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon) and studied chemistry. She continued her graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh. A job opportunity in Florida for her husband led to a science teaching position at a private school. The nature of her career path changed as she both became a mother to three children, born between 1955 and 1959, and her growing family moved to Port Chester, N.Y. Elaine felt inspired to pursue a more creative path, revisiting her childhood passions for writing and painting. As Elaine offered in an interview in a piece in Reading Teacher in 1998, she wanted to “write something that reflected my own children’s growing up.”

The rest is history.

In The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Claudia says to Mrs. Frankweiler that “you should want to learn one new thing every day.”

Mrs. Frankweiler responds, “I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside of you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.”

Here’s to allowing all that we know to swell up inside of us until it touches everything.

As a side note, having written, Virginia Hamilton: America’s Storyteller, note that this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Mark your calendar to follow the ALA’s awards via live webcast on Facebook or by following #alayma on Twitter.

 

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Julie K. Rubini
Julie K. Rubini is the author three MG biographies, including, Eye to Eye: Sports Journalist Christine Brennan, Virginia Hamilton: America's Storyteller, (Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books, 2018, Outstanding Merit) and Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Hidden Ohio. Upcoming: Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive and Sing, June 2020. Julie is also the Founder of Claire's Day, Ohio's largest children's book festival.
www.julierubini.com and www.clairesday.org