Elaine Lobl was born in New York City on February 10, 1930, but grew up in small Pennsylvania towns, the second of three daughters. She was an avid reader, although reading was only “tolerated” in her family, “not sanctioned like dusting furniture or baking cookies”. She was high school valedictorian in Farrell, Pennsylvania, where there was no guidance counseling and she never heard of scholarships. To earn money for college, she worked as a bookkeeper at a meat plant, where she met David Konigsburg, the brother of one of the owners.
Elaine entered Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh and majored in chemistry, with her “artistic side … essentially dormant”, because she was good at it and the purpose of college was “to become a something—a librarian, a teacher, a chemist, a something”. She became the first person in her family to earn a degree. After graduating, Elaine married David, who was then a graduate student in psychology. She started graduate school in chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh (1952 to 1954) but they moved to Jacksonville, Florida after he attained his doctorate. She worked as a science teacher at Bartram School for Girls until 1955; became the mother of three children, Paul, Laurie, and Ross (1955 to 1959); began painting at adult education after two children; and planned for the time they would all be in school.
Konigsburg took the new direction after the family moved to Port Chester in Greater New York (1962), where she continued art lessons and joined the Art Students League. She began to write in the mornings when her third child started school. Her first-published story Jennifer, Hecate was inspired by Laurie’s experience as a new girl in Port Chester. Mixed-Up Files was inspired by her children’s complaints about a picnic with many amenities of home; she inferred that if they ever ran away “[t]hey would certainly never consider any place less elegant than the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” Konigsburg learned of those first two books’ 1968 Newbery Award and honorable mention during her family’s move back from Port Chester to Jacksonville. When she composed her autobiographical statement for The Book of Junior Authors (2000), she lived “on the beach in North Florida”. The pieces of View From Saturday (1996) had come together when she “left my desk and took a walk along the beach”.
Along with chapter books, some of which she has illustrated, Konigsburg is the writer and illustrator of three 1990s picture books “featuring her own grandchildren”: Samuel Todd’s Book of Great Colors, Samuel Todd’s Book of Great Inventions, and Amy Elizabeth Explores Bloomingdale’s. As of 2002, she had five grandchildren, Samuel Todd and Amy Elizabeth being the eldest children of Laurie and Ross. Husband David Konigsburg died in 2001. Konigsburg died in Falls Church, Virginia on April 19, 2013 from complications of a stroke that she had suffered a week prior. Konigsburg was 83.
- February, 10, 1930
- Manhattan, New York
- April, 19, 2013
- Falls Church, Virginia
- Ponte Vedra Valley Cemetery
- Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida