A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
1963 Newbery Medal Winner
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 224 pages
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?)
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.