My Bio

My Bio
My name is Sharon Levin and I've been reviewing children's literature for 17 years. I founded and run the Bay Area Children's Literature List. My biggest passion (outside my family) is getting books into the hands of children and teens. My favorite thing is getting non-readers to realize that they're readers. I also LOVE t-shirts that have to do with books or literature. As soon as I figure out how to do it, I'll have a click through on the above picture so you can see my entire collection (and where to get them).

April 23, 2013

A Tribute to E.L. Konigsburg, a Wonderful Author and Lovely Woman

Mrs. Konigsburg passed away this last weekend, the literary and physical worlds have lost a wonderful person.


Mrs. Konigsburg will always have a very, very special place in my heart.  She can be credited (or blamed) for turning me into an author groupie.

This is something I sent to my Bay Area Children's Literature list 9 years ago, and I'm making it my second blog post, because I got off my booty and finally started this blog because I wanted to pay tribute to her.

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Soooo, years ago (almost 41 to be precise) I was reading "About the B'Nai Bagels" right before we were going to Jacksonville, Florida to visit my grandmother. My father picked up my book and said, "Look, this author lives in Jacksonville, you should give *him* a call when you visit Grandma."  (Looking at my old copy of BB I realize it does say she on the book flap, but guess we didn't look THAT closely.)

Anyway, we got to Jacksonville and one day I went into my grandmother's bedroom, closed the door (I didn't want anyone to know what I was doing, just felt kind of embarrassed) and called.  A woman answered the phone and I asked if this was the home of E.L. Konigsburg and she said 'yes'.  I asked if I could please speak to E.L. Konigsburg and she said "speaking". 

I told her what a big fan I was and that I wanted to call her while we were visiting my grandmother.  She invited my mother and me over to visit!!!  I was in seventh heaven!!

We got to go to her house, sit in her living room and chat.  I remember looking up and seeing two large oil portraits on the wall and I said, "That's Claudia and Jamie!"  Sure enough, they were paintings she had done of two of her children, the two who served as the models for the drawings in "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler"

She had just published "A Proud Taste of Scarlet and Miniver" and told us a bit about it (I had never heard of Eleanor of Acquitaine - so it was fascinating AND educational) :-)

It was a wonderful, delightful afternoon and I still remember her warmth and openness to two complete strangers.

My mother, who had happily taken me to meet my heroine that day, only lived another three years, until I was 13 years old.  To tie this together a bit more, my mother died from pancreatic cancer.  Years later, Mrs. Konigsburg would lose both her husband and her editor to the same horrific disease.

Fast forward from age 10 to age 34,  I called her again to interview her for a children's literature course I was taking.  She remembered me and even remembered who some of my 'mother's people' were (this is the south after all) :-)


SO, I felt as if we had come in a bit of a circle when on March 20th,(2004) Mrs. Konigsburg (cannot think of her as Elaine, there's that Southern influence again) came and spoke at the annual Otter Dinner put on by the Northern California Children's Booksellers' Association.  At that dinner, I introduced her to MY 10 year old daughter (who had just finished reading "About the B'Nai Bagels) who is named Elise after my much loved mother, Elsie (who would have completely understood our rearranging the letters of her name and not actually saddling a child born in 1994 with the name Elsie) :-)

Mrs. Konigsburg was just as warm and gracious as I remembered her and introducing her to Elise brought tears to my eyes.  It is a moment that Elise and I will both remember (and I'm sure Grandma Elsie was there somewhere as well) for a very, very long time.

Thanks for letting me share.

--Sharon

17 comments:

  1. Beautiful story, what a way to start a blog.

    Marilyn

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  2. Sharon, thank you for sharing your memories of E.L. Konigsburg. Her kindness and hospitality to you only makes me like her more, if that was possible. She wrote incredible books and was no doubt an incredible person. A fantastic tribute!

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  3. This post is an example of why it's great you've started a blog! Looking forward to the next one. Cristina

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  4. This is a very beautiful story. I must discover this author, E.L. Konigsburg. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. You made my day! Bringing a new reader to Mrs. Konigsburg makes me very happy!

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  5. I'm so glad you shared this story on your blog. What a wonderful memory of a great writer, and it's heartening to know that she was as gracious and generous in real life as she was in her books.

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  6. What a touching tribute to a writer who knew how to connect in a very personal way with a young reader -- you!

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  7. Thank you for sharing this sweetness with us, Sharon. What a wonderful way to become an author groupie, and the strands connecting you and Ms. Konigsburg are incredibly special. A true representation of the spiral that is life. Your memories are a very welcome treat.

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  8. Sharon, I smiled as I read this tribute both on Child_Lit and here. I love the connections made between authors and readers, and your message was a perfect example of these connections. My smile grew even more when in another message to Child_Lit, you gave your reasons for preferring a comment directly on your blog to an email response. Continue that abandonment of subtlety in this blog, and I'm sure you will have many loyal readers.

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  9. The blog is off to a roaring start! Great story!

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  10. Thank you to you all, the ones I know and new friends!! I really appreciate your warm words and support!! And Anonymous, you have me guessing. :-)

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  11. Thanks for sharing your charming story. May all your blogging days be filled with the same sunshine.

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  12. How wonderful that you were able to talk to her!! She will definitely be missed. And welcome to blogging. I learned about your blog through my good friend, Lyn Miller-Lachmann.

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  13. What a lovely and generous woman Mrs. Konigsburg was! We are so lucky to have her books keeping us as thoughtful and engaged as she would've wanted. Thank you for sharing your story!

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  14. Thank you Sharon. Your blog is going to be a wonderful resource for our community.

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  15. Wonderful tribute, Sharon. Thanks.

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