E.L. Konigsburg

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“Some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up and touch everything. If you never let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you.”

Years ago, during my first visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, I went directly to the Arms and Armor exhibit. Not because I have a particular interest in armor, but because it’s the room in which Claudia and Jamie hide in E.L. Konigsburg’s most well-known novel, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Like many museum visitors before me, I peeked into the knight’s armor, hoping that Claudia or Jamie would be looking back at me.

Somewhat strangely, I associate From the Mixed-Up Files with The Catcher in the Rye. I think it’s because they were among the first “New York City novels” I read.  When, as a teenager, I read about Holden waiting for Phoebe on the stairs at the entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my reference point was Claudia and Jamie. I felt like I knew those stairs long before I saw them. 

The Museum was the first thing that came to mind this morning when I read the news that Konigsburg died last week at the age of 83. Konigsburg was a smart writer. Today’s New York Times obituary quotes Horn Book editor, Roger Sutton’s review of Silent to the Bone: Mrs. Konigsburg is “one of our brainiest writers for young people, not only in the considerable cerebral powers she brings to her books but in the intellectual demands she makes on her characters.”  Sutton’s comment is exactly why I look forward to reading Konigsburg’s novels with students. They are completely original.

Reading The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place with a group of 6th grade students led us into discussions of how to define beauty, what it means to be an individual, and the risks of conformity. Two years ago, I read The View From Saturday with a different group and, as a class, we fell in love with Mrs. Olinski and her Academic Bowl team.  Some of the most rewarding moments I’ve had as a literature teacher have been while talking about Konigsburg’s novels. Undoubtedly, young people will be reading her books for years to come, but still, a literary light went out today.


Why I Love My Job


I love working with kids and books.  Sometimes, I’ll be in a conversation with a student about a book and it will occur to me that “this” is my job, and I feel like the luckiest person in the whole world.  There was a moment this past week when I had that feeling.

I was talking with a group of sixth-grade students about The View from Saturday, a novel by E.L. Konigsburg.  My students had finished reading it, and they were talking about how all of the book’s pieces fit together.  They were so excited that they were talking over each other in a mad rush to get it all out!

It occurred to me that the joy they were experiencing came from nothing more than words on a page.  I’ve pictured the looks on their faces all week and know it will be one of those treasured memories I “replay” many times during the years ahead.

Ten Favorites for Teenage Boys

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Now it’s the boy’s turn… Two posts ago, I listed my ten favorite books for teenage girls.  For those boys just entering the teenage years, here are a few books that may serve as guideposts and reassuring reads – with the endorsement of my nearly 15-year-old son.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

New Boy by Julian Houston

Silent to the Bone by E.L. Konigsburg

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch

The Contender by Robert Lipsyte

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

Probably Still Nick Swansen by Virginia Euwer Wolf

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zuzak

Don’t Leave Home Without Them…


charlottes-webAs a teacher and librarian, I am often asked for book suggestions. Recently, a parent of a 6th grade student asked me for a top 10 of sorts—a list of books that most kids should read at some point.

Of course, that is a nearly impossible task. Fortunately, there are lots of different books for lots of different readers. But I did not want her to leave empty handed, so if push comes to shove, here are 10 books no child should miss:

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The Giver by Lois Lowry (this one is generally best appreciated by 12 and 13 year olds)

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Holes by Louis Sachar

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

New York State of Mind

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KonigsburgI just returned from spending a wonderful weekend in New York City, and then this morning, when I turned my radio on, Billy Joel was singing “A New York State of Mind.”

That explains today’s post which will feature my very favorite children’s stories that take place in the Big Apple.  Some old and some new—but all delightful.   I should add that this a very personalized list; there are hundreds of books to choose from, but  if I were pressed to name my ten favorites, they would be:

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (hardly an original choice, but since I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sunday, this book comes immediately to mind)

This is New York by Miroslav Sasek

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber

Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City by Janet Schulman

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

Stuart Little by E.B. White

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift

Dave at Night by Gail Carson Levine

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley