Posts Tagged: E.L. Konigsburg

Reading Wednesday

I signed up for my first fic exchange, The Exchange at Fic Corner 2013! About a hundred people signed up, and assignments will come out tomorrow. The fandoms I requested are:

Ramona Series – Beverly Clearly
The Melendy Quartet – Elizabeth Enright
Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E. L. Konigsburg
Zahrah the Windseeker – Nnedi Okorafor
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Arlene Sardine – Chris Raschka
The President’s Daughter Series – Ellen Emerson White

As you can probably tell, it’s a kidlit and YA exchange. My letter here has more of my thoughts about these fandoms and what I like and what I wonder.

So I’ve been keeping the Melendy Quartet by my bedside (I like syndicated comic strips or many-times-reread children’s books for bedtime) and reading the chapters all out of order. I wish there were a Great Brain at the Academy type book about Rush at boarding school. That’s the kind of book you dream about reading and then wake up and feel so disappointed that it doesn’t exist after all.

Things I was surprised did not get nominated for The Exchange at Fic Corner: anything by Daniel Pinkwater, The Westing Game, Jean Little’s books about Kate and Emily, the Little House series, and The Hunger Games.

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Meanwhile, I read the first book in the British YA adventure series about Alex Rider– Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz. Oh, it reminded me so much of reading Nancy Drew books! Better prose, but since I didn’t notice the bad prose in Nancy Drew as a kid, that felt the same too. Our hero is fourteen and always knows how to land the necessary karate kick, except when he doesn’t and gets tied up. So much aplomb, plus spy toys and a giant Portuguese Man o’ War! There was a movie version, but it got a whopping 33% on Rotten Tomatoes.

From the Mixed-Up Brochure Rack

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler hit Fuse #8’s Top 100 List yesterday, and one of the commenters linked to a brochure (pdf) the Metropolitan Museum of Art gives out about the real-life art that appears in the book. It contains a long author’s note about how she got the idea! It starts like this:

The beginnings of the idea for the book started with a piece of popcorn on a blue silk chair.

My three children and I were visiting the Museum, wandering through the period rooms on the first floor when I spotted a single piece of popcorn on the seat of a blue silk chair. There was a velvet rope across the doorway of the room. How had that lonely piece of popcorn arrived on the seat of that blue silk chair? Had someone sneaked in one night—it could not have happened during the day—slipped behind the barrier, sat in that chair, and snacked on popcorn? For a long time after leaving the Museum that day, I thought about that piece of popcorn on the blue silk chair and how it got there.

…and there is much more, including the solution to the real-life mystery of the statue.

I wonder if the museum has to guard against people sneaking a single piece of popcorn onto that chair, in tribute, the way Julie Powell left butter in Julia Child’s replica kitchen at the Smithsonian. I would be tempted…an air-popped kernel, of course, so it wouldn’t damage the silk.

I also ran across Talk Talk, an out-of-print book of talks by Konigsburg. Interlibrary loan, I love you!

Update, 8/28/12: The talks had quite a bit of discussion about “political correctness” that I did not find especially astute. Specifically, there was a distressing lack of “maybe I am not the expert to be talking on this.” However, I was interested to see that E.L. Konigsburg had a hard time finding books that felt like “home” when she was a kid, because of class issues. She would try, she said, and the book would be about a girl named Betsy, who took naps, and whose mother had “help.” One of the very first exceptions was Little Women. There’s Hannah Mullet, of course, but maybe the fact that the March women talk about money and take jobs made the difference?

Opaque and Transparent

Authors whose books I admire greatly but have to read over and over again because I never quite get a complete understanding of them:

Ellen Raskin
E.L. Konigsburg
Diana Wynne Jones
Henry James

Authors whose books I read over and over because they are transparent to me and show me myself (they feel too close to me to say I admire them greatly…though of course I do):

Beverly Cleary
Jean Little
Daniel Pinkwater
Lois Lowry
Jane Langton

ETA: when I typed tags for this entry, all the authors on the opaque list were already in my tags. Only DMP from the second list was already there. I guess there is a trying-to-understand motive when I blog about books? (unless it’s a showing-off motive.)

birdsong

I’ve been paring back activities for awhile now. Last week I was fighting germs, and just barely had the energy to get through the workday. But even before that I went into hermit mode in the hopes of getting my IPRC final project underway. I’m not training for any races. I’m not taking any new classes. I really don’t like to be busy, don’t like the feeling of wow this is a busy week even if I like each thing in it. I think it will be a net gain to give up the busy.

But still, something is driving me to go to the weekly Morning Birdsong Walk at Mt. Tabor. Maybe it’s another iteration of What Kind of Tree Is That? In any case, I got on the bus at 6:12 this morning to rendezvous with refgoddess and M and listen to birds.

The 6:12 bus is a quiet bus. I get the feeling people are sitting there quietly contemplating their lives and the circumstances that lead them to be on the bus at that hour. By contrast, when we join the bird nerds at the park gate it’s quite chatty. I’ve been twice now, and there have been a couple of dozen people each time. Almost all of them are real birders, with binoculars and lists. There’s a pair of teenage twins who have lived near the park since they were small and are respected experts on the birds of Mt. Tabor. They could easily be E.L. Konigsburg characters. The leaders talk about the local listservs, recent bird sightings around Oregon, and the new storm-petrel species one of them helped discover on a repositioning cruise between Chile and Alaska, which is apparently a lovely way to check off lots of seabirds from your life list.

People were excited today because the spring migrations are underway in earnest after a late start. We stood for half an hour, probably, facing a big-leaf maple and watching ruby-crowned kinglets and about twenty other kinds of birds zip around. This was great for the jaded and knowledgeable, but less convenient for us beginners. On my first birdsong walk I learned what a robin song sounds like. Today I learned that juncoes go tick-tick-tick.

I peeled off long before the walk was over, and caught another bus to work. It was very noisy: after standing on the curb while 20 minutes’ worth of cars snarl by, I got on the #4, which is standing room only already at 52nd Avenue. Rush hour and construction were both underway. I was glad to get to my desk.