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E.L. Konigsburg: best remembered for 'From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler'

E.L Konigsburg won the Newbery Medal twice and is best known for her children's book 'From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.'

By Staff Writer / April 22, 2013

E.L. Konigsburg is the author of 'From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler' and 'The View from Saturday,' as well as other award-winning children's books.

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Children’s author E.L. Konigsburg, a two-time Newbury Medalist for her books “From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” and “The View from Saturday,” died on April 19 at the age of 83, according to her family.

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Konigsburg was perhaps best known for the 1967 book “From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” which followed a brother and sister, Claudia and Jamie, who ran away from home and hid inside New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art

Konigsburg, whose full name was Elaine Lobl, grew up in Pennsylvania and attended Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in chemistry. Konigsburg began writing and illustrating books after her youngest child had entered school and published her first book, “Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth,” in 1967. “From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” came out later the same year.

The author’s other works included “Up from Jericho Tell” and “The View from Saturday,” which was released in 1996 and followed a group of middle-schoolers who enter an academic competition. “From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” won the Newbery Medal in 1968 and “Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth,” secured a Newbery Honor that same year, making her the only author to win both a Medal and an Honor in the same year. Konigsburg later won the Medal again in 1997 for “The View from Saturday,” making her one of only five authors to have been given the prize twice.

“From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” was adapted once as a 1973 film called “The Hideaways,” in which actress Ingrid Bergman starred as the title character, and again in 1995 as a TV movie in which Lauren Bacall took on the part.

Konigsburg wrote that she was inspired to create the story of “From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” after she and her family went on a picnic and her children complained of the discomfort involved.

“What, I wondered, would my children do if they ever decided to leave home?” the author said. “Where, I wondered, would they go? At the very least, they would want all the comforts of home, and they would probably want a few dashes of elegance as well. They would certainly never consider any place less elegant than the Metropolitan Museum of Art."

In Konigsburg’s novel, protagonist Claudia “knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away,” the author writes. “She didn't like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes.”

The author’s last book, “The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World,” was released in 2007.

“I think most of us are outsiders,” Konigsburg told the Dallas Morning News of her characters. ”And I think that’s good because it makes you question things. I think it makes you see things outside yourself.”

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