Monday, April 29, 2013

From the Mixed-Up Memories of a Basil-Loving Bookseller

Basil isn't really what this post is about, though it is indeed one of my favorite spices. The actual subject of this post is how the children's book world recently lost one of its greats. E.L. Konigsburg, who passed away recently at age 83, wrote many smart, strange books about smart, strange kids. She's best known, and I think rightly so, for Newbery winner From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, in which structured Claudia and adventurous Jamie run away from home on a structured adventure and take up residence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She won a Newbery Honor the same year for Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth, and another Newbery Medal three whole decades later for The View from Saturday. The lady was amazing, and I'm glad that many are giving her her due.

In the few years I've worked here, we've lost the creators of quite a few of the books in the kids' section. The past few years have seen the loss of authors and illustrators including Maurice Sendak, Else Minarik, Donald J. Sobol, Brian Jacques, Diana Wynne Jones, Eva Ibbotson, Russell Hoban, Margaret Mahy, Simms Taback, Ray Bradbury... and each time, it's about the same. We bring in a few more copies of the departed author's books, we face them out on the shelves, and we reminisce - often with customers - over our favorite books. Sometimes we discover new favorites or rediscover old ones; the author's best-known work might date back to or predate our childhoods or those of customers. We didn't know these people personally, though we may feel like we did, and the stories are just as available to us now as they were before the sad news. Though a loss is a loss - the phrase "end of an era" comes up sometimes - the loss of an author can also be a reminder to say hello again.


Stephanie Pritchard said...

The Mixed Up Files was one of my favorite books as a child. I actually never knew of her other books. Glad I think adults can read "children's" literature!

Claire M. Caterer said...

ELK is part of the fabric of my childhood. Her books helped shape the writer I am today.