E. L. Konigsburg

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E. L. Konigsburg
BornElaine Lobl
(1930-02-10)February 10, 1930
New York City, NY, U.S.
DiedApril 19, 2013(2013-04-19) (aged 83)
Falls Church, Virginia, U.S.
OccupationWriter and illustrator
Alma materCarnegie Mellon University (Carnegie Institute of Technology)
GenreChildren's novels, short stories, picture books
Notable works
Notable awardsNewbery Medal
1968, 1997
Phoenix Award
David Konigsburg
(m. 1952; died 2001)

Elaine Lobl Konigsburg (February 10, 1930 – April 19, 2013) was an American writer and illustrator of children's books and young adult fiction. She is one of six writers to win two Newbery Medals, the venerable American Library Association award for the year's "most distinguished contribution to American children's literature."[1]

Konigsburg submitted her first two manuscripts to editor Jean Karl at Atheneum Publishers in 1966, and both were published in 1967: Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.[2][3] They made her the only person to be Newbery Medal winner and one of the runners-up in one year.[a] She won again for The View from Saturday in 1997, 29 years later, the longest span between two Newberys awarded to one author.[1]

For her contribution as a children's writer Konigsburg was U.S. nominee in 2006 for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international recognition available to creators of children's books.[4]


Elaine Lobl was born in New York City on February 10, 1930,[5][6] but grew up in small Pennsylvania towns, the second of three daughters.[5] She was born to two Jewish immigrants who moved from New York City to a mill town in Pennsylvania.[7] She was an avid reader, although reading was only "tolerated" in her family, "not sanctioned like dusting furniture or baking cookies".[6] She was high school valedictorian in Farrell, Pennsylvania, where there was no guidance counseling and she never heard of scholarships.[6] To earn money for college, she worked as a bookkeeper at a meat plant, where she met David Konigsburg, the brother of one of the owners.

Elaine entered Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and majored in chemistry, with her "artistic side ... essentially dormant", because she was good at it and the purpose of college was "to become a something—a librarian, a teacher, a chemist, a something".[6] She became the first person in her family to earn a degree.[8] After graduating, Elaine married David, who was then a graduate student in psychology. She started graduate school in chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh (1952 to 1954[6]) but they moved to Jacksonville, Florida after he attained his doctorate. She worked as a science teacher at Bartram School for Girls until 1955; became the mother of three children, Paul, Laurie, and Ross (1955 to 1959[6]); began painting at adult education after two children; and planned for the time they would all be in school.[9]

Konigsburg took the new direction after the family moved to Port Chester in Greater New York (1962[6]), where she continued art lessons and joined the Art Students League.[9] She began to write in the mornings when her third child started school.[9] Her first published story Jennifer, Hecate was inspired by Laurie's experience as a new girl in Port Chester. Mixed-Up Files was inspired by her children's complaints about a picnic with many amenities of home; she inferred that if they ever ran away "[t]hey would certainly never consider any place less elegant than the Metropolitan Museum of Art."[5]

Konigsburg learned of those first two books' 1968 Newbery Award and honorable mention during her family's move back from Port Chester to Jacksonville.[6] When she composed her autobiographical statement for The Book of Junior Authors (2000), she lived "on the beach in North Florida". The pieces of The View From Saturday (1996) had come together when she "left my desk and took a walk along the beach".[5]

As summarized by critic Marah Gubar, "For five decades, Konigsburg challenged readers by tackling subjects often avoided in children’s books, from the undercurrent of hostility that runs through an interracial friendship to the domestic unrest generated by the stirrings of pubescent and parental sexuality... Konigsburg was committed to depicting young people as capable knowers of what goes on in their own minds, homes, and the wider world they inhabit. Bad things happen in her novels when adult characters fail to respect this competence. At the same time, however, Konigsburg emphasizes that all knowledge is perspectival; the particular social position that each of us inhabits shapes what we know and how we come to know it."[7]

Along with chapter books, some of which she illustrated, Konigsburg is the writer and illustrator of three 1990s picture books "featuring her own grandchildren": Samuel Todd's Book of Great Colors, Samuel Todd's Book of Great Inventions, and Amy Elizabeth Explores Bloomingdale's.[3][5]

Personal life[edit]

In 1952, she married David Konigsburg, with whom she had three children, Paul (born 1955), Laurie (born 1956), and Ross (born 1959). As of 2002, she had five grandchildren, Samuel Todd and Amy Elizabeth being the eldest children of Laurie and Ross. Her husband, David Konigsburg, died in 2001.[3]

Konigsburg died in Falls Church, Virginia on April 19, 2013 from complications of a stroke that she had suffered a week prior.She was 83.[10]

Konigsburg was a longtime resident of Jacksonville, Florida and Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.[11]


Many of Konigsburg's stories feature childhood and adolescent struggles that are easy for school-age readers to understand. Often her characters are striving to find the answers to big questions that will help shape their identities. Many of them are based on her own experiences as a child, the observations she made of children while a teacher, and the experiences or observations of her children.[5]

Especially her characters are "softly comfortable on the outside and solidly uncomfortable on the inside".[8] Teaching at Bartram, she learned that supposed "spoiled young women who had it all [actually] had all the creature comforts of the world, but ... were just as uncomfortable inside as I was when I was growing up."[6] Later she realized that her own children were middle-class suburban kids with comforts unlike her own. She has written about "their kind of growing up, something that addressed the problems that come about even though you don't have to worry if you wear out your shoes whether your parents can buy you a new pair, something that tackles the basic problems of who am I?"[6]

She has told Scholastic Teachers, "The essential problems remain the same. The kids I write about are asking for the same things I wanted. They want two contradictory things. They want to be the same as everyone else, and they want to be different from everyone else.They want acceptance for both."[9]


Konigsburg is the author of the following books; those she illustrated are noted ("illus. ELK").[b] She said that Father's Arcane Daughter is sometimes her favorite book and Eleanor of Aquitaine is the person that she would most like to meet.[9] Her work has been translated and published in multiple languages, including Korean.[citation needed]


Beside audiobook recordings, four of Konigsburg's novels have been adapted and produced as movies or plays.[b]

  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: 1973 film starring Ingrid Bergman (Cinema 5), released 1974 as "The Hideaways" (Bing Crosby Productions); a 1995 film starring Lauren Bacall released on television.
  • Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth: 1973 television movie "Jennifer and Me" (NBC)
  • The Second Mrs. Giaconda: 1976 production of a play (Jacksonville FL)
  • Father's Arcane Daughter: 1990 television movie "Caroline?" (Hallmark Hall of Fame)


Two books by Konigsburg were finalists for the National Book Award in "Children's" categories (1969 to 1983), the historical novel A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver in 1974[14] and the short story collection Throwing Shadows in 1980.[15] A Proud Taste was the 1993 Phoenix Award runner-up and Throwing Shadows won the 1999 Phoenix. That Children's Literature Association award recognizes the best children's book published 20 years earlier that did not win a major award; it is named for the mythical bird phoenix, which is reborn from its ashes, to suggest the winning book's rise from obscurity.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Award dates 1968. The Newbery Honor was initiated for the 1970/71 cycle and Newbery Honors for books published before 1970 were named in retrospect.
  2. ^ a b The biographical essay "E(laine) L(obl) Konigsburg 1930–" identifies all the works illustrated by Konigsburg herself, the alternative titles of UK editions, the adaptations listed here, and audio recordings not listed here.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–Present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA).
      "The John Newbery Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-07-19.
  2. ^ Ross Lipson, Eden (April 3, 2000). "Jean Karl, 72; A Publisher Of Books For Children". The New York Times. Retrieved October 21, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Mixed-Up Files, 35th anniversary ed., Afterword.
  4. ^ "IBBY Announces the Winners of the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 2006". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Press release 27 March 2006.
      "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". IBBY. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Konigsburg, E. L." Archived March 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Autobiographical statement from Connie Rockman, ed., Eighth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, Wilson, 2000 (ISBN 0-8242-0968-0). CMS Library Information Center. Coleytown Middle School. Westport, CT. Retrieved 2014-03-05.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "E(laine) L(obl) Konigsburg 1930–" Archived March 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. CMS Library Information Center. Coleytown Middle School. Westport CT. Retrieved 2014-03-05.
      Reprint from: "E(laine) L(obl) Konigsburg." U*X*L Junior DISCovering Authors. U*X*L, 1998. Reproduced in Junior Reference Collection. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale Group. September, 1999. http://www.galenet.com/servlet/JRC/
  7. ^ a b Gubar, Marah (June 15, 2014). "The Mixed-Up kids of Mrs. E.L. Konigsburg". Publicbooks.org. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  8. ^ a b "Meet the Author: E. L. Konigsburg". No date. Houghton Mifflin Reading. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "E. L. Konigsburg, Interview Transcript" Archived February 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. No date. Scholastic Teachers. scholastic.com. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
  10. ^ "E.L. Konigsburg Dead: Award-winning children's book author dies". Associated Press. April 21, 2013. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  11. ^ "Jewish Museum of Florida- FIU".
  12. ^ See The Second Mrs. Giaconda, Citations and Notes.
  13. ^ ""From the Mixed-Up Files of MRS. Basil e. Frankweiler," Fifty Years Later".
  14. ^ "National Book Awards – 1974". National Book Foundation (NBF). Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  15. ^ "National Book Awards – 1980". NBF. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  16. ^ "Phoenix Award Brochure 2012"[permanent dead link]. Children's Literature Association. Retrieved 2013-03-04.
    See also the current homepage, "Phoenix Award" Archived March 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  • Konigsburg, E.L. (2002). From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Aladdin Books. ISBN 0-689-71181-6. With a 35th anniversary afterword from the author. The Afterword includes reproductions of Jean Karl's July 21, 1966 letter to Mrs. Konigsburg about the Mixed-Up Files manuscript, and a two-page "sequel" to that book which Konigsburg wrote for the 1968 Newbery awards banquet.

External links[edit]