I guess Traditional is probably the right word, but it was highly unconventional. I sent two of my short stories to Diana Wynne Jones. Not only was she gracious enough to read them, she recommended I send them to her American editor Susan Hirschman who agreed to publish my collection of short stories, Instead of Three Wishes.
That's as rad as Lyle Lovett crediting Guy Clark for kickstarting his career by talking up his demo tape way back when. MY SHRIVELED LITTLE HEART, IT JUST GREW THREE SIZES.
But her dream soon became his dream and one of the nation’s most prolific and successful writing teams was born.
They set out to fill the void of missing African-American history and to counter stereotypes of popular children’s books such asThe Story of Little Black Sambo. "These images,” Mr. McKissack said, “last a lifetime.”
As I'm sure you've already heard, E.L. Konigsburg died this weekend.
Which is a huge loss.
She's one of the very few authors on my personal Doesn't Know How To Write A Bad Book list, and even though I haven't picked up one of her books in a few years—I'm planning on digging them out this evening—the news of her death was a punch in the gut.
Here are a few links to obituaries and remembrances from around the kitlitosphere and beyond:
I was fortunate enough to meet Mrs. Konigsburg a few times. My favorite memory of these was at a late evening drinks reception where I sat with her and a handful of others on bar stools around a small high table, quite starry-eyed to be included. She was definitely one of the classiest and smartest people I have ever read or met and I hope that her books will continue to provide the same intellectual and aesthetic pleasure for others that they have for me
She also found it funny that for many years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art refused to sell From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler because, she speculated, they feared the book would encourage kids to do what her characters did and and sleep on an exhibit bed and bathe in the water fountain when the museum was closed.
Eventually the museum not only relented, but they allowed a movie adaptation of the book to be filmed on its premises.
Her first book, Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth, was given a special Newbery honour the same year she won her first Newbery medal, making her the only author to win two Newbery prizes in the same year.
For years, The View from Saturday was read, re-read and re-read yet again until it fell apart, then I’d run out and find a new one. She touched my life and my heart with her books and she lives on in them. My granddaughter now reads and re-reads From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler much as I did The View from Saturday. I am positive, because her books are so enduring that my granddaughter’s grandchildren will one day be lying in a window seat with a well-loved, almost falling apart book by Ms. Konisburg in their hands.
Reading A View from Saturday touched my heart. I had grown up with kids like this. The notion of an Academic Bowl was so appealing that I wanted to slip back to my childhood, go to that school, and be on the team. Elaine Lobl Konigsburg told stories about real children, kids that many of us could side with, laugh with, cry with, and not feel alone.
Along with books by Zilpha Keatley Snyder and Ruth M. Arthur, the stories of E.L. Konigsburg were some of the very first that sparked my imagination, that taught me about secret worlds where I could explore very far away from the suburban streets of North Dallas. (And I’m a bit astonished to realize that virtually all of Konigsburg’s books are set in the real world — historic world sometimes, but not in made-up secondary venues. I’m surprised because those books carried a sense of wonder, a vision of different-ness, that flavors my speculative fiction today.)
It’s about independence and New York and art and Michelangelo, and I was more than a little like Claudia at that age, and I used to try to figure out how long I’d last in that place and what I’d spend money on (I tell you, I’d not be as obsessed with baths as she was) and to this day, whenever I’m in a restroom at a museum, I think about the whole “standing on the toilet seat and ducking” trick.
Konigsburg never wrote down to her readers. Many of her characters are sophisticated, intelligent, witty, unique, and savvy. She wrote about wannabe-witches (Jennifer), restless suburban kids (Mixed-Up Files), Jewish boys playing baseball (About the B’nai Bagels), historical women (A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, The Second Mrs. Giaconda), possibly-con-artist women (Father’s Arcane Daughter), outcasts, smarty-pantses, heroes — the list goes on.
Mrs. Konigsburg, who spent a year teaching high school science, was an unabashed information-pusher. Children’s books, she once said, are “the key to the accumulated wisdom, wit, gossip, truth, myth, history, philosophy, and recipes for salting potatoes during the past 6,000 years of civilization.”
I'm sure there are lots of others—if you've run across any especially nice pieces, let me know in the comments. Or, if you feel like it, tell me which of her books is your favorite. (Mine continues to be Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth.)
Do I have this figured out right? The first Baby-Sitters Club book came out in 1986, and the girls were in seventh grade. According to Wikipedia, they were thirteen. So, assuming that my simple math is correct, Stacey would have been born in 1973?
It seems weird that Stacey McGill is older than me.
ANYWAY, it's her birthday. According to this calendar, at any rate.
It's all in here—Kristy's bossiness and her issues with her parent's divorce; Stacey's secret diabetes and boy-craziness; Mary-Anne's sensitivity and her very protective father; Claudia's solid relationship with Mimi and her difficulties with Janine—without the slog through (admittedly unintentionally hilarious) three paragraph descriptions of Claudia's fashion choices, etc.
Just looking at that post again makes me want to read Telgemeier's other BSC adaptations... not to mention her other books!
Spoilers about The False Prince are a necessity here. If you haven't read that one, you should: it's twisty-turny-fun-fun-FUN with political intrigue and narrator who is a strict truth-teller but also completely untrustworthy and a great cast of characters and did I mention how much fun it is? It ALSO (deservedly) won a 2012 Cybils award.
THIEVERY! PIRATES! BROKEN BONES! OLD FRIENDS! OLD ENEMIES! OLD FRIENDS WHO ARE NOW ENEMIES! NEW FRIENDS! NEW ENEMIES! LOTS OF ACTION, ADVENTURE, AND SURPRISES! ALSO ROMANCE! I love this series. There's enough information provided at the beginning for new readers to catch up—and for old readers to get reacquainted with the characters and challenges and politics—but I really would suggest beginning at the beginning.
If you haven't read it and you're still reading, YOU'VE BEEN WARNED. (Seriously, shoo! Go read it.)
With the very first line of The Runaway King, Jennifer A. Nielsen reminded my exactly why I enjoyed The False Prince so much:
I had arrived early for my own assassination.
It's just so... JARON-Y: hardboiled, wryly humorous, a little bit self-deprecating and a little bit pompous. The plotting, too, starts with a bang—or, well, a swordfight—and it doesn't slow down once. This isn't a marathon of a book, it's an all-out sprint. As in the first book, many of the chapters end with cliffhanger-y lines like: I was only midway through one of my better curses at him when he raised the sword and crashed it down on my head.
It would make for a great read-aloud, and I very much hope that
Scholastic got a strong reader for the audiobook, because it deserves
I have a few minor complaints. Jaron makes some tactical moves that had me yelling "AUUUUUUUUUUUUGH, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?" and at one point,
"NOOOOOOOOO! DON'T EDWARD CULLEN HER, YOU MORON!" (Then again, it's almost always a point in a book's favor if I start yelling at it—it speaks to an exceedingly high level of engagement!) Also, there's a major plot point that hinges on the may-as-well-be-patented Michael Crichton* formula in which, for the entire book, the protagonist tries to remember a crucial piece of information, and 300 pages later, he finally does... JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME. Which I always feel is kind of weak. Finally, as Jaron uses a lot of the same
lying-by-telling-the-truth deflection techniques that he used in the
first book, his habit of playing his cards super-close occasionally
comes off as more obnoxious and smug than entertaining and surprising, but for reals, those are all just petty, minor issues: for the most part, I read
the whole thing quite happily. And I totally can't wait for the next one.
I suspect that the basic premise of the first book will tempt some readers to label this trilogy as The Queen's Thief-lite, but I think that's as unfair to Nielsen as it is to label The Hunger Gamesas a watered-down Battle Royale: they're geared to different audiences, and I wouldn't even say that they're in the same genre, with The Ascendance Trilogy as a throwback to the very same Olde-Fashioned Straight-Up Rip-Roaring Adventures that pundits occasionally proclaim to be extinct, whereas The Queen's Thief started as that same sort of story, but then morphed into a political thriller and a meditation on leadership and service and life-as-an-individual versus life-as-a-political-figure and heck, if you don't know what I'm talking about, I don't know why you're spending time reading this and not headed for your local library RIGHT NOW.
*Every Michael Crichton book I've ever read uses that formula.
Enter Harriet M. Welsch, who became my role model and savior. I read Harriet the Spy soon after it came out (and I now bless the school librarian who put it on the library shelves for me to find). I was absolutely shocked by it at the time. Shocked that Harriet could defy her parents and her friends and still survive. Shocked that she loved and missed Ole Golly so much that she threw a shoe at her father to express her anger. Shocked that an adult author could know so well what really went on in the minds of children.
Seriously, go read it. By the end, I was all weepy.
Love Harriet, now and forever.
(The essay originally ran in the January 2005 issue of the Horn Book, but just re-ran at the website yesterday.)
Something you can swear by, used in a way similar to "by God!" It seems to have come from seafaring slang, and might refer to the Big Dipper. But you don't need to know the origin to find it useful. Today the strange randomness of the words makes it feel mystically satisfying to shout.
If you haven't read that book, btdubs, YOU ARE TOTALLY MISSING OUT. BECAUSE IT IS AWESOME.