A number of issues of concern to adolescents are presented in Konigsburg’s work: finding peer acceptance, making friends, growing in maturity, finding oneself, coping with family relationships, and living in a diverse world. Primarily, the book addresses peer relationships and acceptance. The story portrays two children who are forming a friendship and who are in some ways alike but in other ways quite different. The meaning of real friendship is demonstrated, and the author’s underlying message is that friends should support and help one another rather than be hurtful.
Self-conflict provides the primary plot for the story. Elizabeth is presented as a shy girl needing a friend. She is a new student who walks to school alone each day and who is afraid that she will cry when walking into class late with everyone looking at her. Adolescence is often a time of uncertainty, one filled with self-doubts and fears about other people’s perceptions. Therefore, these are believable scenarios with which many adolescents will be able to associate. Elizabeth’s shyness is reemphasized through her actions and responses when she meets Jennifer, an imaginative and apparently self-assured individual. Elizabeth agrees to all of Jennifer’s recommendations and suggestions related to becoming an apprentice witch. Because Jennifer is confident and is supportive of Elizabeth in subtle ways at school, Elizabeth complies with Jennifer’s demands even when she does not want to do so. She gradually becomes aware of how Jennifer manipulates situations in order to force her to make decisions so that Jennifer will not have to...
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E. L. Konigsburg is known for writing stories with dialogue that seems completely natural and realistic. In 1968, Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth was named a Newbery Honor Book, the same year that Konigsburg received the Newbery Medal for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1967), another story with a female protagonist. To have one book recognized by the Newbery committee is an honor, but to have two receive acclaim in the same year is truly exceptional. Even more impressive is the fact that these novels were her first two books. Konigsburg is identified in the field of children’s literature as a notable author and one of those credited with introducing contemporary issues. She continued to write stories of realistic fiction for younger adolescents, including About the B’nai Bagels (1969), a story about a boy whose mother coaches his softball team; Journey to an 800 Number (1982), the story of a boy learning to appreciate his father during a summer visit; and Throwing Shadows (1988), a collection of short stories about people making discoveries about themselves. Her stories tell amusing tales that explore substantial, realistic themes throughout.