E.L. Konigsburg dies at 83; award-winning children’s book author

E.L. Konigsburg, who was one of the few children’s authors to twice win the Newbery Medal, died Friday at a hospital in Falls Church, Va. She was 83.

Konigsburg had a stroke the week before she died, said her son Paul.

She won the Newbery Medal, one of the top honors for children’s literature, in 1968 for the book “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” and again in 1997 for “The View from Saturday.”


Her first book, “Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth” was also a Newbery honor book in 1968 but lost out to “Mrs. Frankweiler” — making her the only author to be a winner and runner-up in the same year.

In awarding the prize in 1997, the Newbery committee called her tale of a sixth-grade academic bowl team and their coach a “jubilant tour de force characterized by good humor, positive relationships, distinctive personalities and brilliant story-telling.”

“Mrs. Frankweiler” was adapted for the 1973 film “The Hideaways,” which starred Ingrid Bergman in the story of an 11-year-old who hides out with her brother after hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Lauren Bacall also played Mrs. Frankweiler in a 1995 TV movie.

Konigsburg wrote 16 children’s novels and illustrated three picture books, according to her family.

She built her characters and plots by imagining what-if situations with her children, grandchildren and students, according to a 2004 interview with the Dallas Morning News.

“I think most of us are outsiders,” she had said. “And I think that’s good because it makes you question things. I think it makes you see things outside yourself.”

The middle of three daughters, Elaine Lobl was born Feb. 10, 1930, in New York City and grew up in Pennsylvania.

In 1952 she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University and married David Konigsburg, who became a psychologist. They eventually settled in the Jacksonville, Fla., area and moved to New York in the early 1960s.

For several years she taught science at an all-girls school and began writing and illustrating books when her youngest child entered kindergarten.

Konigsburg had two sons, a daughter and five grandchildren. Her husband died in 2001.

Her family inspired her fiction. “Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth” was based on her daughter’s experience making new friends, while “Mrs. Frankweiler” had its genesis in the finicky behavior her children displayed on a picnic in Yellowstone Park.