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Elaine L. Konigsburg

Author, Illustrator

1930 - 2013
Inducted in 2000

Biography

Elaine Konigsburg was a distinguished and prolific writer and illustrator of children's books and young adult fiction. In 1968, she moved to Jacksonville with her family.  Since then she published nearly two dozen titles, books for which she won some of American literature's top awards and honors. Konigsburg is the only writer to receive both the Newbery Medal, considered the highest honor in children's literature and awarded by the American Library Association and a Newbery Honor in the same year (1968). In 1999, she was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Born Elaine Lobl in New York in 1930, Konigsburg grew up in Pennsylvania.  She became the first person in her family to graduate from college, earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh.  After graduation in 1952, she married David Konigsburg, who was pursuing a doctorate in psychology at Carnegie, and resumed her education as a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh. 

She moved to Jacksonville in 1954, where her husband had found work as an industrial psychologist.  Konigsburg became a chemistry teacher at Bartram, a private girls' school in Jacksonville, where she worked intermittently (in between having three children) until her husband was transferred to Port Chester, New York in 1962.   When her youngest child went to school, she began spending her mornings writing.

Konigsburg's first two books, Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth were inspired by her daughter's efforts to make friends in Port Chester.  She also drew on her childrens' behavior to write From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which won her her first Newbery Award.  In 1973, the book was adapted to the screen and subsequently reissued as The Hideaways, which starred Ingrid Bergman as Mrs. Frankweiler.  In 1996, the film was remade for television and starred Lauren Bacall.

Although their subject matter varies widely, most of Konigsburg's books reflect adolescent struggles common to school-age children.   She is often praised for the depth, wit and sophistication of her novels.  In a review of her 2004 novel, The Outcasts of 19 Schuler Place, Peter D. Sieruta of The Horn Book Magazine wrote:  "Konigsburg tackles some big themes–the meaning of art, the power of community, and the importance of nonconformity–without sacrificing her usual incisive characterizations and inventive storytelling." 

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