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.
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.