Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
1963 Newbery Medal Winner

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 224 pages
ISBN-10: 0312367546
ISBN-13: 978-0312367541


I actually never read this book as a child, and I confess that the only reason I decided to read it now is to try to figure out clues on the TV show, Lost. As much as I like to read, I'm a big Lost fanatic, and this is one of the books that Sawyer reads on the island.

This classic novel for middle graders begins on "a dark and stormy night." Meg Murry, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and her mother, a scientist, are in the kitchen having a midnight snack when a strange visitor shows up at their door. Soon after, this visitor, Mrs. Whatist, takes Meg, Charles Wallace, and their schoolmate, Calvin, on a dangerous journey to save Meg and Charles Wallace's father, a scientist who has been missing for over a year.

A Wrinkle in Time has been a favorite of children for many years. Because I never read it as a child, I'm not sure if my opinion about it would be different. For example, I recently reread The Chronicles of Narnia, a series that I read multiple times when I was a child. While I observed some shortcomings in the books and was bothered by the religious undertones I never seemed to notice when I was a child, I thoroughly enjoyed rereading them as an adult and getting reacquainted with familiar characters and plots.

Maybe I would have felt the same with A Wrinkle in Time. However, after reading it for the first time as an adult, it was just okay.

I loved the characters…kind hearted Meg, the exceptionally bright Charles Wallace, down-to-earth Calvin, and the quirky Mrs. Whatist. The plot full of magic, space travel, suspense and mystery is good enough to get a child hooked on sci-fi/fantasy. The dark and frightening climax when Meg is fighting "It", the disembodied brain, will keep kids on the edge of their seats, and I think many will be eager to read the other four novels in the quintet.

What bothered me though was the lack of detail I would have liked to have seen more of. I wanted to know more about Mrs. Whatist and company and more about Aunt Beast, the furry creature that saves Meg's life. I would have liked to have seen the aftermath of Meg's defeat of "It" on Camazotz. Were the people freed? Was "It" destroyed? Granted, this may be revealed in a later novel in the series, but I did wish that there was a little more background information.

The other thing I had a hard time getting past was L'Engle's religious messaging. I admit that I'm uber-sensitive about having religious messaging in children's books that aren't advertised as religious-themed books. I feel that it alienates children of different faiths and is unnecessary in mainstream stories like this, especially when it adds nothing to the storyline. This has been a contentious issue since the book's publication, and L'Engle herself has always claimed that she talks about faith, not religion. I remain skeptical about that.

But religion aside, I do think it's a book that many children will enjoy. Because there are some frightening situations, I do not recommend it as a read aloud to younger children. I think grades 5-7 would be the appropriate age range.


(Oh, and the only relation to Lost I can figure out is that is has something to do with "tessering," taking shortcuts through time and space. Any other Lost fans out there find something else?)

Cross-posted at The Newbery Project



What Other Bloggers are Saying:

Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot: "The ideas in this book are simple but often forgotten ones, and their appeal is universal – it goes beyond age, genre, nationality or religious creed. A Wrinkle in Time is a story about self-acceptance, about how much better life is if we feel comfortable in our own skins. It’s also about tolerance, individuality, and creativity, about celebrating our differences and the things that make us unique." (Read the rest here)

I urge you to read Nymeth's review in its entirety because she had a completely different take on the book.

In Spring it is the Dawn:" I can see why it’s still a popular children’s book, but to my jaded adult self, it was rather hokey. Bah humbug!" (read the rest here)


If you have a review of A Wrinkle in Time, leave a comment with your link, and I'll post it here.

10 comments:

  1. I don't like sneaky religious messages in children's books either. It almost smacks of brainwashing to me! That said, I loved A Wrinkle in Time as a girl, and read the whole series numerous times and never picked up on the religious message. I never noticed it in The Chronicles of Narnia either, so I don't know if I just wasn't very perceptive as a child, or what! Thanks for the thoughtful review- I'm going to put this in my "to read" stack for a refresher.

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    1. Why is everyone so open to everything else in media and faith in something greater than ourselves is something to be worried about? I can think of a lot of other topics I would be concerned about my child reading than this.

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  2. Natasha,
    Well...the only one I could figure out was the reference to the whole time travel thing. However, now I'm tempted to rent all of the seasons from Netflix and see if I'm missing anything...pretty sad, huh?

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  3. Jenny,
    I never picked upon the religious messaging in Narnia until I was an adult. It's very subtle, and I doubt a child would pick up on it unless it was pointed out to him/her. When the film version of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was made a couple of years ago, I decided to read the series again and noticed the subtle messaging. I did some research and apparently, the story can actually be read as a Christian allegory--Aslan's murder and subsequent resurrection symbolize Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.

    My friend who has a 6-year old says she didn't pick up on the religious messaging at all in A Wrinkle in Time, and she tends to be super sensitive to stuff like that. So perhaps I'm being too sensitive.

    Both The Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time are great works, and I wouldn't have a problem with letting my daughter read them even though they bother me a little now.

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  4. "The other thing I had a hard time getting past was L'Engle's religious messaging. I admit that I'm uber-sensitive about having religious messaging in children's books that aren't advertised as religious-themed books. I feel that it alienates children of different faiths and is unnecessary in mainstream stories like this, especially when it adds nothing to the storyline."

    I see what you're saying, but interestingly enough I really didn't feel that way about this book. It was the opposite with Narnia - I read the books for the first time in my 20s and the allegory really jumped out at me.

    I posted about this book here.

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  5. Hi Nymeth,
    Yeah...it's weird. I don't know why the references irked me the way they did in this book.

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  6. Thanks for stopping by and letting me you'd read this. As you know I had a similar experience with it. I reread The Chronicles of Narnia a few years ago and like you, found some shortcomings and was bothered by the religious undertones, especially in the last couple of books in the series, but still overall enjoyed revisiting them. Since I loved these books as a child, it was easy to overlook the adult issues I had with them and just reminisce.

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  7. I loved "A Wrinkle in Time" as a kid, and I now teach it in my classes, but I do admit that reading it as an adult was a little disappointing. However, isn't that often true about books we absolutely adore as kids and then revisit as adults? I've found a number of great teaching resources for "Wrinkle" at http://www.dedicatedteacher.com that I use in my class. They have ebooks on tons of other novels and subjects, as well, that have helped me develop lesson and unit plans. Fantastic blog!

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  8. Hi Natalie,
    Thanks so much for visiting and for telling me about dedicatedteacher.com. It looks like a wonderful resource for teachers! I know what you mean about books you loved as a child losing their appeal when you re-read as an adult. I felt that way about the Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit.

    I hope you visit again!

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