E.L. Konigsburg — the author of one of my favorite childhood books, the brilliantly quirky mystery From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – died April 19 at the age of 83. The book, which features a spunky 12-year-old and her younger brother, runaways who essentially move into New York’s Metropolitan Museum, was one of those I read time and again, dog-earing the pages and splitting the spine. (I was at that age where running away from home seemed especially appealing.) I was a kid in a small town in Texas; I’d never been to Manhattan — but after reading From The Mixed-Up Files, I couldn’t stop dreaming about the museum and the city. I moved here after college, and I still remember my first visit to the Met, the pages of the novel echoing in my mind.
I never met E.L. Konigsburg, but I think I would have liked her immensely. She once wrote in an essay in the Saturday Review that “Reading was tolerated in my house, but it wasn’t sanctioned like dusting furniture or baking cookies. My parents never minded what I read, but they did mind when (like before the dishes were done) and where (there was only one bathroom in our house).” She won the prestigious Newbery Award for children’s literature in 1968 for From The Mixed-Up Files, and she won it again in 1997 for The View From Saturday.