"Each author really has a theme" Newbery Award-winner Elaine Lobl Konigsburg has said, "and Identity apparently is mine." Given how important "knowing who you are" is to 8- to 14-year-old readers, it is not difficult to see why the books of so witty a writer and illustrator should have such broad appeal among this audience. The author of eight novels, two story collections, and three picture books for younger readers, E. L. Konigsburg not only takes as her "task" a young person's struggle to make sense of his or her identity, but she situates this struggle in American suburbia, whose bright, neat, and orderly surface can mask a stringent, often cruel demand for conformity. In the first critical study to cover all Konigsburg's fiction, Dorrel T. Hanks, Jr., examines how her stories allow readers to distance themselves from their own identity struggles and thus to see those struggles in a new light. The myriad elements that can darken a child's life - arguments with siblings, anger at parents who "don't understand," coping with divorce and a single parent - Konigsburg handles with unfailing hopefulness, Hanks contends. He shows how her unfaltering wit and sometimes-irritating but always-likable protagonists ease the burden of such family discords and help readers gain some perspective on their own development. Approaching the novels chronologically - but addressing the historical novels and story collections in separate chapters - Hanks explores the stylistic development of this self-described suburban housewife, who had done graduate work in chemistry and studied painting before beginning her first novel as a 35-year-old mother of three. Hanks points up the parallels between Konigsburg's personal history and the distinctive, wholly unprecedented plots she devises. Who else, he asks, would have two children run away from home to secretly take up residence in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art as do the sister and brother in From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler? For Hanks, plot, characterization, and a wit that distinguishes her work from that of other top-rank children's writers are the hallmarks of Konigsburg's writing. He calls special attention to Konigsburg's singularity in illustrating her own books: her drawings convey the texts' settings and characterization, and sometimes even themes, with much greater immediacy than would the visual interpretation of another artist. Throughout this study Hanks compares the fiction of Konigsburg - the first and so far only author to win the Newbery Award for both the year's best (Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth) and second best (From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler) children's book - with that of other writers who address the "middle-aged" child of 10 to 14. Anyone interested in this much-acclaimed writer or in children's literature generally will find E. L. Konigsburg a valuable critical overview.