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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

A Classic Children's Book

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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book jacket for A Wrinkle in Time 50th Anniversary Edition

Book Jacket of A Wrinkle in Time, 50th Anniversary Edition

Macmillan

Introduction

In 1962 Madeleine L’Engle introduced young readers to a spunky, smart female protagonist and propelled her into a fantastical adventure involving time travel, other worldly beings, and a disembodied brain all in a quest to save her father. With this groundbreaking story line and setting, L’Engle endeared herself to a new crop of readers while inadvertently stirring up controversy surrounding her themes of faith and good versus evil. Despite naysayers and multiple book rejections, A Wrinkle in Time earned a 1963 John Newbery Medal for L’Engle and timeless status as a mix of fantasy and science fiction starring an intelligent and fiercely loyal girl. Fans of this classic book will be delighted to know that in 2012 the publisher released a 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition of A Wrinkle in Time, with lots of bonus materials about the book and the author.

Story Line

Meg Murry is ready for a fight. Burdened by her feelings of physical awkwardness and the frustration of not knowing the whereabouts of her missing scientist father, Meg is bursting with energy and angst. Her academic and social life are spiraling out of her control until one “dark and stormy night” her family is visited by the mysterious Mrs. Whatsit, an otherworldly being disguised as a grandmotherly figure. Mrs. Whatsit, along with her friends Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, introduce Meg, Charles Wallace, her precocious five-year old brother, and Calvin O’Keefe, a charismatic young neighbor, to the tesseract, a wrinkle in time, that will set them on an amazing journey visiting other planets in their quest to find the missing Mr. Murry.

With the guidance from a trio of enigmatic beings, Meg and her companions prepare to battle the Dark Thing, an evil controlled by IT that is slowly taking over other planets and threatening Earth. When IT, a disembodied brain, is in control, the planet’s inhabitants go about their lives in a zombie like state of sameness. When the young time travelers reach the planet Camazotz, they must risk the danger of losing the ability to control their thoughts and actions by falling into IT’s hypnotic trance. Yet, when Charles Wallace engages with the mighty evil IT and succumbs to its power, it will be up to Meg to use her intelligence to outwit the powerful force, find her father, and return everyone safely back home.

Author Madeleine L’Engle

Madeline L’Engle, born November 29, 1918 in New York, grew up as a privileged only child surrounded by artists and intellects. In her younger years, L’Engle attended a boarding school in the French Alps and later attended high school at a boarding school in South Carolina. She enrolled at Smith College where she graduated with honors in English. After college she wrote and acted in a few theater productions and published her first novel A Small Rain in 1945.

Throughout her lifetime L’Engle wrote 60 books. She passed away in a nursing home in Connecticut in 2007 at the age of 88. For more about the author, watch the About.com video profile of Madeleine L’Engle.

Awards for A Wrinkle in Time

Madeline L’Engle received the John Newbery Medal in 1963 for A Wrinkle in Time, which was also recognized on the American Library Association’s annual Notable Books for Children list.

Controversy and Censorship

A Wrinkle in Time did not have an easy beginning. The book was rejected more than two dozen times before the publishing company now known as Farrar Straus and Giroux decided to publish it. Immediately, controversy surrounded the book from critics who found it either overtly religious or blasphemous. In addition, many reviewers believed the book to be too complicated in scope and theme for a young audience and audacious in using a young female as a protagonist.

Other reasons for the book challenges were due to L’Engle’s perceived references to witchcraft and pro-communist themes. The book continues to reside on the American Library Association’s latest list of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009.

My Recommendation

“It’s been an awful week and I’m full of bad feeling,” says Meg Murry to her mother right before they receive an ominous visit from the mysterious Mrs. Whatsit. Meg is frustrated with her life, is critical about her looks, resents interfering adults, and has a zero tolerance for bullies. As a reader, I found young Meg’s attitude and character to be credible. Meg is a smart, spunky female going through realistic emotions of awkwardness who feels fierce loyalty to her father. Personally, I believe A Wrinkle in Time is a classic on the merits that it made groundbreaking strides in introducing a strong female heroine into the world of science fiction.

While I liked the characters and story line, I did feel L’Engle’s religious references were a bit heavy handed. Regardless, to a young reader this dialogue most likely reads as fantastical wording that merely follows the magical qualities of the story. One thing that I will say in L’Engle’s defense is that she offers no apologies for her book. She wrote a story she believed in and steadfastly stood by her characters and themes. A Wrinkle in Time is a classic time travel adventure that follows the beloved story line of children on a loyalty quest. It is a satisfying, engaging story for kids who love to read about the possibility of traveling to other worlds and battling for an ultimate good. I recommend this book for ages 10 and up. (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2012. ISBN: 9780374386160)

(Sources: Author Website, New York Times Obituary, 9/8/2007, NPR: The Unlikely Best-Seller: 'A Wrinkle In Time' Turns 50, Banned Book Awareness: “A Wrinkle in Time” and the American Library Association: Frequently Challenged Books)

More Recommended Books from Your Guide Elizabeth Kennedy

If you are looking for tips on discussing L'Engle's book, see A Wrinkle in Time: Questions for Study and Discussion. Another book that includes time travel, but is quite different from L’Engle’s, is Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me for which the author received the 2010 John Newbery Medal. If you are looking for books with strong female characters, see Strong and Resourceful Female Characters in Children’s Books.

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