Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Another One Gone

by Elizabeth

You get Publisher's Lunch, right? It's fun to peruse each day, see what's up, what's sold, scan the job listings in case I get a hankering to move to New York. And then they always list if anyone in the publishing world has passed away.

The other day, they announced the death of E.L. Konigsburg, probably know best as the Newberry-winning author of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Which, by the way, was a book I was aware of in my elementary school days, and which won accolades the year after I was born, but which I believe I have never actually read.

But reading of her death, I didn't think of that book at all, though it's of course the one that was mentioned. I instead remembered another book, the one I did read, and read, and read, in elementary school.
My copy, purchased as an adult

I am sure I first picked it up in our school library/multi-purpose room (there I go giving away my age again: is there a more education-in-the-70's term than "multi-purpose room"?) because, well, it had my name in it. There were a number of books I read, and mostly enjoyed, that were chosen for that reason. But this one stuck with me, and now, three decades or so later, I've probably read it a good dozen times or more. Forced my kids to read it, too. In fact, I went hunting for the copy pictured here when I read of Ms. Konigsburg's passing, and found it in my daughter's room rather than on the bookshelf in our playroom (where it goes, ahem).

About a month ago, I wondered who we would regret never getting to read our books. I confess that this writer of my favorite book as a child didn't cross my mind then, but after reading her author page on amazon, it more than occurs to me now. Here's what amazon says about E.L. Konigsburg:

"E. L. Konigsburg is the only author to have won the Newbery Medal and be runner-up in the same year. In 1968 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler won the Newbery Medal and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth was named Newbery Honor Book. Almost thirty years later she won the Newbery Medal once again for The View From Saturday. She has also written and illustrated three picture books: Samuel Todd's Book of Great Colors, Samuel Todd's Book of Great Inventions, and Amy Elizabeth Explores Bloomingdale's. In 2000 she wrote Silent to the Bone, which was named a New York Times Notable Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, among many other honors.
After completing her degree at Carnegie Mellon University, Ms. Konigsburg did graduate work in organic chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. For several years she taught science at a private girls' school. When the third of her three children started kindergarten, she began to write. She now lives on the beach in North Florida."

She began to write the year her third kid started kindergarten. Well. I began writing in earnest the year my youngest began pre-K, which surely provided about the same amount of time to write as she had back in the 60's. (I had half-day kindergarten myself, and our district here only began full day kindergarten they year my son started.) Which means, this lady who is likely familiar, through the book I loved, or the one everyone else did, or one of her many, many others, to pretty much every American reader who is a target audience of all six of us on this blog--got her start at roughly the same moment in her life as I did.

I don't know how long it took her to pen either one of those books. I don't know what her journey was, which one came first, or even if anything else came first. But no matter what she did, how she did it, she did it, and she started out in a similar place as me.

I loved that book, and chances are I'll pick it up again in the coming weeks and read it again. In some ways, it will be like the first time, because though she used my name, I never realized before that we had something in common. I wish I'd known a few years earlier. I wish I could have told her.

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