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Top 5 Things I Learned from E.L. Konigsburg April 24, 2013

Posted by ccbooks in Analysis, Nerd Line.

From the Mixed up FilesThe world lost a fabulous writer when Elaine Lobl Konigsburg died this past week. I first fell in love with her work when I read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in third grade, a love that only increased after reading A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver and The View from Saturday. She was the writer who, with her 2005 title The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place made me really sit up and think “Hey, lots of the writers I loved as a kid are still writing books. And there are even more new children’s authors now…maybe I should pay more attention to them.” Nearly ten years later, I’m working in a children’s bookstore, writing this blog and reading obsessively. Thank you for all your fantastic work, E. L. Konigsburg. Here are the top five things I learned from reading your stories.

5. A love of long titles.

I think the shortest title Konigsburg ever wrote was Father’s Arcane Daughter. Her first two books, which were awarded the Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor in the same year (the only time that has happened) were From the Mixed-up Files… and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and me, Elizabeth. To this day, I prefer the long, involved title, as evidenced by my current puppet play, which I titled The Amazing and Marvelous Cabinets of Kismet. I like to think Konigsburg would approve.

4. Museums are magical places.

Like most kids, I resented being dragged to museums unless 1. It had things for you to do (preferably pulling a gigantic soap bubble around yourself) or 2. It had a dollhouse to look at. From the Mixed-up Files changed my opinion however, and since reading it, I have grown to love any and all museums, if only because I look at each installation of a bed and wonder what it would be like to sleep there. Probably impossible, in todays world of security cameras, but I can still dream.

Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place3. Siblings can be your greatest allies.

Claudia has Jamie to help her conquer the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Winston has Hilary to help him puzzle out the mystery of their sister Caroline. Connor has Margaret Rose to help him pull words out of his silent friend Branwell. As a child, my next youngest sibling Danny was my constant ally in games of pretend and as we grew older, we have had the great fortune to stay close, while bringing our sister Ana and youngest brother Jack into our schemes and plans.

2. Friends are found in unexpected places.

A recurring theme in all of Konigsburg’s work is that you never know who will help you and become your friend. It could be the person next to you on the bus, an old lady you’ve never met before, a strange girl who keeps showing up at the same hotels as you or even the group of kids who used to torment you at summer camp. I try to keep an open mind about everyone who comes into and goes out of my life, as you never know when they might hold the key to a mystery.

1. Always be yourself.

Whether you are convinced you were born to live in luxury or to sing onstage, Konigsburg’s characters proclaim themselves loud and clear to their world. From her books, I learned to never be ashamed of who I am, who my family is or what I love. If there is a grand theme to her entire body of work, I think it is that by working together and staying true to ourselves, children can help others and change the world. A great legacy to leave for all readers.


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