Tuesday, April 23, 2013

R.I.P., E.L.

I've just found out that the world of literature has lost someone truly special. E.L. Konigsburg, author of several children's books and Newbery award winner, died this past Sunday at the age of 83: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/21/el-konigsburg-dead-dies-_n_3129444.html

"From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" has always been one of my favorite books. It was one my mom loved, and now my 9-year-old daughter loves it. I haven't read the book in many years, but it still lingers with me. I cannot help but picture Claudia and her brother Jamie whenever I think of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I've only been to New York City once (a school trip in May 2001), but I was disappointed when we couldn't go to the Met. I really, really wanted to see it, and the main reason was because of having read "Mixed-Up Files" many, many times as a child. At some point, I will get there, and I will have to fight the urge to hide in a bathroom at closing time in order to stay in the museum overnight.

Claudia's critique of Jamie's grammar still resonates with me, as well. English has always been my strongest subject, and to see a young girl correcting the grammar of others makes me laugh today (though, when I was a child, I would get into trouble for correcting the grammar of adults...something about adults hating being corrected by children, even if said children are in the right, I think.) As a kid, I didn't realize that not everyone has the same level of language skills, and it baffled me that others would make mistakes that I wouldn't have thought to make. My love of language is becoming my career, as I will be working on a BA in linguistics at Purdue this fall.

The book also piqued my interest in the world of art. I became fascinated with art history as a result. I remember being admitted to the advanced art club in eighth grade, not because I was any good at drawing and painting (to this day, I'm still pretty abysmal at both), but because my art teacher was so impressed by my knowledge of art history. After reading "Mixed-Up Files", I found myself spending hours reading our 1988 set of encyclopedias, poring over the pages about art. I still very much enjoy going to art museums, decades later. I WILL get to the Met one of these days!

It's amazing how much influence a book can have on you, isn't it? I hadn't realized just how influential "Mixed-Up Files" was on me until just now. I can't tell you how many times I read it as a child, but suffice it to say that the number was quite large. I'm glad my daughter owns a copy now (which I bought for her, actually), as I feel the urge to read it again.

R.I.P., E.L. Your works have engaged children everywhere for almost half a century. May they continue to do so into the next half and beyond.

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