First Book Memories
A few years ago, I posted a confession of sorts. I spoke about my children’s fiction addiction and the wonder those stories hold for me. (You can read about that here.) In that post at the very beginning of my blogging journey, I spoke about some of my favorite childhood books and how they can still hold me enraptured for a few hours when the world around me gets to be a little too much.
E.L. Konigsburg (1930-2013) taught me that if you are going to run away, you have to try hiding out at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Claudia and her brother Jamie run away to the museum to teach their parents a lesson. They manage to live there, undetected, for a week and become embroiled in the mystery surrounding a sculpture that could turn out to be a real Michelangelo! In the process, they learn that some secrets can change who you are forever.
I still read this book from time to time. Maybe I reach for it when I subconsciously want to run away from my adult life. Maybe I just want to visit the Met again and see it through their eyes. I do know that their adventure has lived with me for decades.
Ms. Konigsburg wrote many other great kid’s books and I always find this motivating. She did not start out planning on being an author. She graduated with a degree in Chemistry and became a teacher. Yet, here she was in her mid-30s starting to publish children’s fiction. (This is great news for those of us who are coming to our writing in the middle of our lives. So often we hear of new authors published at 20, who have been writing stories since they first held a crayon and we can’t help but think we may have already missed the boat!)
In 1967, Ms. Konigsburg not only won the Newberry award for From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, but won a runner-up place for Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth – the only person in Newberry history to do that!
She also won the Hans Christian Anderson Award in 2006 for her contributions as a children’s author, and another Newberry for The View From Saturday. She published over 21 books, also illustrating many of them. Four of them were later made into movies or plays.
Her books feature struggles that are faced by many kids who are looking to figure out who they are and where they fit into the world. In an interview with Scholastic Teachers, she talked about the problems her characters face and how they are universal. She said, “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.”
If you have never read one of her books, regardless of how old you are now, please go to the library or a bookstore and pick one up. 🙂