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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

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CheezWeezil

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As I was shopping online for books for my family, I stumbled across this one.  I hadn't read it before, but remembered the title from when I was young. I recalled that others had loved it, so I bought it.

When I opened it to chapter 1 I was immediately turned off. Why?  It opened with the all time classic cliche of writing: "It was a dark and stormy night."

I decided to let that slide, and continued.  It did not take long to find that this book had nothing I was interested in reading.  I gave up around chapter four.

I am sure that many of you loved the book in your youth, and perhaps still do. It was not for me.

#1 - August 30, 2007, 05:53 PM

gretchenlaskas

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I've put down many a book that others loved knowing it wasn't right for me. 

Out of the L'Engle novels, WRINKLE was never my favorite.  But my son and I read it together when he was in fourth grade and having a hard time making friends (we'd moved to a new school) and it was the right book at the right time.
#2 - August 30, 2007, 06:40 PM

Kate_in_AZ

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Like you, I don't always like Newberry winners.  But you and I disagree on this particular Newberry Medal book.   I loved A Wrinkle in Time as a kid and I still do.  I really identified with Meg.   Actually, I loved all L'Engle's books.  I remember going to see her speak when I was in college and doing an internship in the Bay Area.  She was every bit as wonderful as I thought she would be.

Oh - and the "dark and stormy night line" - she knew it was cliche.  It was an allusion to the novel Paul Clifford.
#3 - August 30, 2007, 06:47 PM
« Last Edit: August 30, 2007, 06:52 PM by Kate_in_AZ »

MVP

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The use of the cliche in the first line was a deliberate choice.  L'Engle mentions it in her book A Circle of Quiet, when she talks about the process of writing and publishing Wrinkle.

I love Meg Murray.  Talk about the right book at the right time--I credit her with helping me survive junior high.  
#4 - August 30, 2007, 06:49 PM

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Like Kate, I don't always like all the Newberys, either. But this one is to me what Charlotte's Web is to so many others. I'd read plenty of series books before it, but this was the first "real" book that sank all the way down into the deepest part of me and spoke to me.
#5 - August 30, 2007, 09:49 PM

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I have my original, war-torn hardcover of WRINKLE IN TIME. I cannot remember NOT owning this book. I am sure I re-read it many, many times when I was little. I check my personal library shelves every now and then to make sure it's still there. I worry when I don't see it. I have not read the book in a long time. I just love knowing I loved it as a child and remember how much joy its words brought to me.

There's just not enough time in the world to re-read all the books I own. It makes me sad.
#6 - August 31, 2007, 12:37 AM

HB

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There have been books that I loved as a child that disappointed me upon rereading as an adult. And there have been classic books that I try to get into but can't because the old-fashioned language or format get in the way for me. This wasn't one of those books for me.  :)
#7 - August 31, 2007, 05:24 AM

Jaina

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I remember our family copy of Wrinkle when I was a kid.  It was in that white paperback form (the kind that easily looks dirty) and the cover was of the children on the back of the horse-like creature with rainbow wings.  It was not an attractive cover to me.  I guess I was about ten or something and I'd read everything in the house.  I frequently raided my sisters' shelves when I was bored and needed something new. 

I actually remember where I was sitting in the house (sitting on my bed, back to a window) when I opened the book kind of reluctantly and started.  I was not a fantasy-oriented kid.  I liked realistic stories, but not too gritty (not "problem novels").  School stories.  Funny stories.  Not stories about mythical centaur-things with rainbows coming out of them.

I started reading and really honestly remember going whooooooooosh and getting sucked in.  Meg.  I could totally relate.  Okay, so she was a genius (in math!) and I wasn't, but...  Wow.  I loved it.  Charles Wallace.  I loved the way he talked.  That he padded around in feet pajamas, cutting up tomatoes for sandwiches.

I remember thinking How did I miss this?  Where have I been?  This is the BEST book ever!

And I'll never forget my physical response to their adventure.  When they were walking down the street where the kids were all bouncing and jumping rope in rhythm . . . my body was actually physically uptight and scared and excited--I was really there.

Gee whiz, I read a lot of books in my childhood, but very few were as exciting as that one.  And stuck in my head the same way.  I am not a very "description" oriented reader, and most of the time my mind/eye sort of glasses over with too much sensory detail, but so many things from that book stuck in my mind.  Like how the turkey dinner tasted like sand or the soft fur garment that Aunt Thing gave Meg to wear.

There's that line in that movie "You've Got Mail" where Meg Ryan's character says that books you read as children become part of your identity the way no other reading in your life does.  That's so true.  A tiny little part of me--and it's a good part--is A Wrinkle In Time!

P.S.--I own multiple copies of it now, but no longer have that yucky-cover childhood copy.  I still re-read it and I still love it.
#8 - August 31, 2007, 05:49 AM

witzl

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My sisters and I loved A Wrinkle in Time too. I can still remember the turkey dinner that tasted like sand, the people who all acted and thought alike, and so much more. I think what we all liked the best was the fact that Meg and Charles were so different from other children and did not immediately make friends at school. We identified so strongly with them because of that, especially my older sister who was mathematically inclined and shunned by her peers.
#9 - August 31, 2007, 07:11 AM

graywolf

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My biggest worry as a mother with sons born in the '90s was whether they could possibly love A Wrinkle in Time as much as I did.  Being boys...born in the '90s... would they even want to read it?  They did, and they did.
#10 - August 31, 2007, 07:23 AM

kellyr

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I loved this book.  Loved. It. 
#11 - August 31, 2007, 08:08 AM

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I'm another who LOVES this book!  My teacher read it aloud in fourth grade, and I got my own copy soon thereafter -- I forced all my students to read it, and although not all of them loved it, they enjoyed it enough.

But I'm one of those who thinks Madeliene L'Engle is a writing goddess -- and I've read every book she's written and own most of them. ;)  So I might be biased...however, WIT was the book that hooked me on her!
#12 - August 31, 2007, 08:17 AM
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I love this book too. And the sandwiches! I can't make it through these books without wanting hot chocolate made on the stove and lots of elaborate sandwiches. (even the ones that I KNOW I wouldn't like in real life.) :)
#13 - August 31, 2007, 08:50 AM

I might have liked this as a kid, but as an adult...nope, sorry - not for me.
#14 - August 31, 2007, 10:00 AM

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My 71/2 year old and I read this over the summer.  LOVED IT.  The only bad part was he kept calling his new schoolteacher, who also has a name that begins with W, Mrs. Whatsit.  Not to her face, fortunately.   :D

Jody
#15 - August 31, 2007, 10:08 AM
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write4me

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 I had a teacher read this aloud in Grade 6 and I was HOOKED! I loved this book with my whole heart.

The same teacher also was one of the first people to tell me I could write.  He encouraged me and made me believe in myself. He was a good man..

Janet
#16 - August 31, 2007, 12:00 PM

I won't say I loved the book  but I enjoyed it a lot. There was some passages in there that just blew me away. Oh, and for some odd reason, I adored Charles Wallace.
#17 - August 31, 2007, 01:38 PM

DerekJ

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Next to Jane Yolen and Philip Pullman, I got the immediate vibes of "Narcissistic-Personality-Disorder Fantasy Writing":

- Story-dominatingly "misunderstood" heroine, who's too caught up in pre-adolescent Misuderstood-angst to have fully realized her world-saving mutant/psychic powers yet,
- Small cadre of membership-carded characters protecting small secret of goodness from "Something" that wants to destroy it for never-fully explained reasons,
- Characters who don't support our heroes (like the Principal in "Wind in the Door") shown either hopeless or completely undeserving of our sympathy--While our main heroine has private wiser mentor/s who's at her call 24/7, except in the climax where she gets to show how Misunderstood she is,
And the story-killer for me:
- Allegorical fantasy-metaphor thrown out the window for flat-out author-sermonizing:
In the scene where one of the IT-possessed baddies asks "Who are these 'Mrs.' to whom you refer?", ML has Charles blurt out "Oh, fer cryin' out loud, they're ANGELS!--Hadn't you figured it out yet??"  (Or words to that effect.)

(...Oh, thank you, Madeline.  We were having such trouble figuring it out, you see.)   :smoke
#18 - August 31, 2007, 02:01 PM
« Last Edit: August 31, 2007, 02:03 PM by DerekJ »

gretchenlaskas

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As I mentioned, this was never my favorite of the L'Engle books.  But Derek's post is a good example of why there are adult readers and kid readers.  I know a lot of astute fourth graders, but most readers at that age don't have the (not inaccurate) perspective that Derek is bringing to the novels.  And few readers (no matter what age) are good about comparing one book to another -- something that I've tested out anecdotally probably hundreds of times in conversation.

I enjoyed the book as a child, but as an adult, it's easy to see why it doesn't work for everyone.
#19 - August 31, 2007, 05:37 PM

Love this book....both as a child and an adult!
#20 - August 31, 2007, 07:07 PM
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aca

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I loved this book as a child.  I need to re-read it again, in fact. It is sitting on my 7 year old's shelf, waiting for her to dive in. (My 7 year old just said to me with such sadness this morning: "There will never be books as good as The Series of Unfortunate Events - never!!" She finished them several weeks ago and is still in mourning at having no more to read. Hopefully, books like A Wrinkle in Time will help.)

Abigail
#21 - August 31, 2007, 08:23 PM

sarmardan

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I know I read this book somewhere along the line during my childhood and I enjoyed it, but it did not make a big impression on me.
I just read it to my 8-year-old gifted son and he was amazed. He really wanted to research tessering. When I was visualizing Charles Wallace as I was read it, I was seeing my son. And I was reading it as a writer this time around. It made a much bigger impression on me. I'm going to find the other books she has written so I can study them too.
Mary
#22 - August 31, 2007, 08:25 PM

Kate_in_AZ

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Derek, obviously, you're skilled at using the written word. Clearly, you have strong opinions about what you read.  So, I'm curious, what kinds of kidlit do you enjoy?  Who are the authors that you admire?  And, what kinds of things do you write?

#23 - August 31, 2007, 10:03 PM

MVP

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Derek, I take issue with your point #3.  (Fair warning--Wind in the Door spoiler ahead)  If the principal in Wind in the Door was so hopeless and so undeserving of our sympathy, then why would L'Engle make him sacrifice himself to try to save Sporos?  Why would Meg realize that "once he understood, he went deeper than she did?"   The realization that he is NOT hopeless, even though Meg first thought he was, is a major aspect of the story. 

(I could nitpick at the details for point #4, but that's not so important.  I do understand your main gripe there, though personally it doesn't bother me.)
#24 - August 31, 2007, 10:40 PM

DerekJ

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Derek, I take issue with your point #3.  (Fair warning--Wind in the Door spoiler ahead)  If the principal in Wind in the Door was so hopeless and so undeserving of our sympathy, then why would L'Engle make him sacrifice himself to try to save Sporos?  Why would Meg realize that "once he understood, he went deeper than she did?"   The realization that he is NOT hopeless, even though Meg first thought he was, is a major aspect of the story. 

(I could nitpick at the details for point #4, but that's not so important.  I do understand your main gripe there, though personally it doesn't bother me.)

I saw the WitD characterization as "There's hope for him as soon as he's smart enough to figure out what we already know"...
Maybe that's painting it a little too broadly, but at the time I was just coming in off of mixed complaints with "Wrinkle" that I couldn't identify.

Reason I mentioned Yolen and Pullman as comparisons (granted, ML's not to that degree), is that I thought it shows what happens when you get too close to your own material and too confident about what the fantasy is trying to "say"--or what you want to show--and lose sight of the characterization:
How you treat your characters can sometimes be a window to how you treat yourself people around you, and fantasy does have a tendency to attract authors who always liked to feel "misunderstood".
#25 - August 31, 2007, 10:56 PM

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fantasy does have a tendency to attract authors who always liked to feel "misunderstood".

Oh, I don't think misunderstood characters are limited to fantasy. The oh-poor-me-my-life-is-wretched theme is one of the things that often alienates me from contemporary problem novels. The difference to me is that in a fantasy, there's often a strong thread of hope that some problem novels don't have. (Not that all problem novels end depressingly. But I prefer a bit of cheerfulness to balance my angst when reading for enjoyment, thanks.  :))

Interesting that we would be bothered by the same basic element, yet interpret it so differently.
#26 - August 31, 2007, 11:22 PM

witzl

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What my sisters and I liked about A Wrinkle in Time was the fact that the kids were all different from their peers and did not fit in. Most of the books that we read were about children who were naturally gregarious and got along fine with their classmates. The fact that Meg and Charles were brainy and quirky, yet largely shunned by their peers, appealed to us no end. I suspect that A Wrinkle in Time captured the imagination of a whole generation of nerds and misfits, including some who were in the closet, so to speak.

Rereading this as an adult, I did find some of the characters a little one-dimensional, like the principal. But kids love seeing adults that are too stupid to figure out what they know, and stubbornly obtuse adults certainly do exist, though admittedly they are more complex than those depicted in most children's literature.

And Derek, as for a "private, wiser mentor on call 24-7" -- you say that like it's a bad thing, when this is the stuff of most kids' dreams!
#27 - September 01, 2007, 01:03 AM

gretchenlaskas

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Hmmmm...I think that feeling of being misunderstood is pretty universal, especially in the short term, no matter what you read!
#28 - September 01, 2007, 08:39 AM

A Wrinkle in Time is creative and far-reaching in its concepts of tessering through space with guides, but not Star Trek-style. That's a lot of its appeal. What other book (especially of its time) is like that?

Meg and her little brother are appealing too, because they are very different from their other siblings in a sweet, geeky way. Another apeal is how they have to explore a strange new planet to try to find their father and get him back, and out of the clutches of IT. It's a book that sticks out for it being original.
#29 - September 01, 2007, 03:16 PM

I read and enjoyed Wrinkle as a child and still have my copy, signed by ML no less.  However, the ML books that made the biggest impression on me were the Austin family series, especially A Ring of Endless Light, which was my favorite book for a long time.  I guess I related better to Vicky Austin (also a brainy, misunderstood kid but in a less nerdy way) than to Meg and Charles Wallace.  I should reread all of these books....someday (sigh).
#30 - September 01, 2007, 06:25 PM

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