E. L. Konigsburg died on Friday at age 83. The beloved children’s author wrote more than 20 books and is one of only five writers to have ever won the prestigious Newbery Medal twice. However, the one book that she will always be remembered for is, of course, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Long before the Night at the Museum franchise was a gleam in Ben Stiller’s eye, we had Mixed-Up Files, which won the 1968 Newbery Medal for excellence in children’s literature. It’s the story of 12-year-old Claudia who decides to run away, with nine-year-old brother Jamie in tow, so that they can live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Hilarity ensues, a mystery is solved, and generations of young girls everywhere dreamed of living in colorful museums full of treasures instead of boring suburban homes.
“Quirky” is often the word applied to E. L. Konigsburg’s books — and her sense of humor. “Reading was tolerated in my house, but it wasn’t sanctioned like dusting furniture or baking cookies,” she once said.
She also noted that the Met refused to sell Mixed-Up Files in their gift shop for years, for fear it would encourage kids to run away and try to sleep at the museum.
Her second Newbery came in 1997 for The View From Saturday.
She was trained as a chemist and worked as science teacher before she became a writer.
In 2000, reflecting the changes she’d seen in her lifetime, she said, “When I began writing in the mid-1960s, I thought it was not important for readers to know whether I was male or female…But if I were starting out today, I would use my first name.”
Her Publisher’s Weekly obituary didn’t say why E. L. Konigsburg had died.
[Metropolitan Museum of Art New York photo by WestportWiki via Wikipedia Commons]