Although I had free run of my dad’s bookshelves and the adult section of the public library when I was a kid, I certainly tucked into my share of kidlit as well. Through my grade school library, I dove into the old Bobbs-Merrill “Childhood of Famous Americans” fictionalized bios, and discovered series like the Danny Dunn and Horace Higby novels (sf/adventure and sf/sports/comedy, respectively). And of course, I got some of my first exposure to mystery fiction through the Three Investigators series, as well as the adventures of a certain renaissance pig (about whom I’ve written elsewhere.)
But while I haven’t read any of the adventures of Danny, Horace, or Jupiter Jones in recent years, there are certain books to which I’ve returned over the years, both on my own and with the Spawn. These would be books by folks I would see as the usual suspects: Madeleine L’Engle’s “Time Quartet”, Lloyd Alexander’s Time Cat, Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy … and the work of E.L. Konigsburg. When I was a grade schooler, I read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and decided that one of the coolest things in the world would be to live in a museum. I probably was led to the book by commercials for the 1973 movie, which I never have seen* — couldn’t afford it then, and just never got around to watching as an adult. But I loved the book.
That led me to more of her work, including Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth (which finished just behind Mixed-Up Files for 1968’s Newbery Award — the only time one author has taken the two top positions in the same year.) Konigsburg would win another Newbery in 1997, with The View from Saturday, making her one of only 5 multiple winners, and the one with the longest run between wins at 29 years. The Spawn came to her work through this last book, but I was more than happy to help her backtrack.
The NYT now reports that Mrs. Konigsburg has died at the age of 83. May she find peace and be remembered with gratitude for some terrific stories that have crossed a couple of generations with more to come. Thanks, ma’am.
*Wiki insists that the film’s title was the same as the book’s, and that the film was retitled The Hideaways in video release. I am morally certain that my 7- to 8-year-old self knew of the film by the latter title, and was nonplussed by the fact that the book had a different name. Hmph, I say.