An award-winning author and illustrator, E. L. Konigsburg is a two-time Newbery medalist who wrote children’s and young adult books.
Born on February 10, 1930, in New York City, Elaine Lobi was born the second of three children. The family moved from New York to a small town in Pennsylvania, where Elaine grew up. Even as a child, Elaine was an avid reader. However, this was an activity that was only “tolerated” in her family. Despite these disagreements within the family, Elaine finished high school as a valedictorian and went on to work at a meat factory to save up for college. There, she met the brother of one of the owners, David Konigsburg, whom she would later marry.
Elaine studied chemistry at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and set aside her artistic side to become a professional. After finishing her degree, she and David married. She started to pursue higher studies at her alma mater, but the couple moved to Florida for David to pursue a doctorate degree in psychology. In Florida, Elaine worked as a science teacher, became a mother of three, and pursued an adult art education.
When the family moved back to New York in 1962, Elaine continued to study art and started to write. Her first stories were inspired by things she had heard from her children.
In 1967, Elaine published a children’s novel entitled Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. The story is narrated by Elizabeth, a girl who moves into an apartment building in a town where everyone lives in a house. The book was inspired by her daughter Laurie’s experience as a new girl in Port Chester, New York. The book was given a Newbery Honor in 1968.
Elaine published her second book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, in 1967 as well. The book is about two children who run away from their home in Connecticut and seek refuge in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) in New York City. While staying at the Met, they come across a marble statue of an angel that fascinates them and makes them conduct onsite research. This novel was once again inspired by her children, who fancied the idea of running away to the Met if they ever needed to run away from home. The book also won the Newbery Medal in 1968. This back-to-back win made Elaine the only author thus far to have been awarded both the Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor in the same year.
Elaine continued writing and illustrating stories for children and young adults. She always wrote about young adults for young adults, dealing with common yet sensitive issues. Through her stories, she wanted to communicate to children that they were just as capable of addressing their issues as adults. From her experience teaching in an all-girls school, she saw how privileged the children were and wanted to challenge their thinking.
Her final book was published in 2007. The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World is a detective-story-slash-mystery told by Amedeo Kaplan, a rich young sixth-grader who wants to “discover something no one yet knows.” Kaplan volunteers to help an elderly woman with some property issues and finds himself learning about art and the German occupation of the Netherlands.
Elaine passed away on April 19, 2013, from complications of a stroke she had suffered a week prior to her death. On February 21, 2014, Elaine was given a tribute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
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