A Wrinkle in Time: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition

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Overview

Madeleine L'Engle is the author of more than forty-five books for all ages, among them the beloved A Wrinkle in Time, awarded the Newbery Medal; A Ring of Endless Light, a Newbery Honor Book; A Swiftly Tilting Planet, winner of the American Book Award; and the Austin family series of which Troubling a Star is the fifth book. L'Engle was named the 1998 recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards award, honoring her lifetime contribution in writing for teens.

Ms. L'Engle was born in 1918...

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Overview

Madeleine L'Engle is the author of more than forty-five books for all ages, among them the beloved A Wrinkle in Time, awarded the Newbery Medal; A Ring of Endless Light, a Newbery Honor Book; A Swiftly Tilting Planet, winner of the American Book Award; and the Austin family series of which Troubling a Star is the fifth book. L'Engle was named the 1998 recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards award, honoring her lifetime contribution in writing for teens.

Ms. L'Engle was born in 1918 in New York City, late in her parents' lives, an only child growing up in an adult world. Her father was a journalist who had been a foreign correspondent, and although he suffered from mustard gas poisoning in World War I, his work still took him abroad a great deal. Her mother was a musician; the house was filled with her parents' friends: artists, writers, and musicians. "Their lives were very full and they didn't really have time for a child," she says. "So I turned to writing to amuse myself."

When she was 12, Ms. L'Engle moved with her family to the French Alps in search of purer air for her father's lungs. She was sent to an English boarding school --"dreadful," she says. When she was 14, her family returned to America and she went to boarding school once again, Ashley Hall in Charleston, South Carolina--which she loved. When she was 17, her father died.

Ms. L'Engle spent the next four years at Smith College. After graduating cum laude, she and an assortment of friends moved to an apartment in Greenwich Village. "I still wanted to be a writer; I always wanted to be a writer, but Ihad to pay the bills, so I went to work in the theater," she says.

Touring as an actress seems to have been a catalyst for her. She wrote her first book, The Small Rain, while touring with Eva Le Gallienne in Uncle Harry. She met Hugh Franklin, to whom she was married until his death in 1986, while they were rehearsing The Cherry Orchard, and they were married on tour during a run of The Joyous Season, starring Ethel Barrymore.


Ms. L'Engle retired from the stage after her marriage, and the Franklins moved to northwest Connecticut and opened a general store. "The surrounding area was real dairy farmland then, and very rural. Some of the children had never seen books when they began their first year of school," she remembers. The Franklins raised three children--Josephine, Maria, and Bion. Ms. L'Engle's first book in the Austin quintet, Meet the Austins, an ALA Notable Children's Book, has strong parallels with her life in the country. But she says, "I identify with Vicky rather than with Mrs. Austin, since I share all of Vicky's insecurities, enthusiasms, and times of sadness and growth."

When, after a decade in Connecticut, the family returned to New York, Ms. L'Engle rejoiced. "In some ways, I was back in the real world." Mr. Franklin resumed acting, and became well known as Dr. Charles Tyler in the television series All My Children. Two-Part Invention is Ms. L'Engle's touching and critically acclaimed story of their long and loving marriage.


The Time quintet--A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time--are among her most famous books, but it took years to get a publisher to accept A Wrinkle in Time. "Every major publisher turned it down. No one knew what to do with it," she says. When Farrar, Straus & Giroux finally accepted the manuscript, she insisted that they publish it as a children's book. It was the beginning of their children's list."

Today, Ms. L'Engle lives in New York City and Connecticut, writing at home and at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where she is variously the librarian and the writer-in-residence. "It depends from day-to-day on what they want to call me. I do keep the library collection--largely theology, philosophy, a lot of good reference books--open on a volunteer basis."

Meg Murry and her friends become involved with unearthly strangers and a search for Meg's father, who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, L'Engle's work of fantasy and science fiction combined with some Christian theology has now been read by several generations of young enthusiasts. The author went on to write three others, forming a quartet based on the Murry family, and including themes like the power of love and the need to make responsible moral choices. In this story, Meg Murry, her extraordinary little brother Charles Wallace, and schoolmate Calvin O'Keefe make the acquaintance of eccentric Mrs. Whatsit and friends (who turn out to be extraterrestrial beings). Together they journey through a wrinkle in time, a tesseract, to rescue the Murrys' missing father from an evil presence (likened by some interpreters to a black hole), and a sinister brain called IT. Although this is fantasy, the characters are portrayed realistically and sympathetically; it is Meg's ability to love that enables them to return safely to Earth and make secure the right to individuality. L'Engle herself claims that she does not know how she came to write the story; "I had no choice," she says, "It was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant." A plus with this new edition is an essay by Lisa Sonne that explores scientific concepts related to the story—multiple dimensions, dark energy, and string theory. Each of these concepts were conceived since the book's 1962 publication but are amazingly applicable to A Wrinkle in Time, and help to ensure that this imaginative book will be read for a long time into the future. 2005 (orig. 1962), Laurel Leaf/Random House, Ages 9 up.
—Barbara L. Talcroft
From the Publisher
A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favorite books of all time. I’ve read it so often, I know it by heart. Meg Murry was my hero growing up. I wanted glasses and braces and my parents to stick me in an attic bedroom. And I so wanted to save Charles Wallace from IT.”—Meg Cabot

“A book that every young person should read, a book that provides a road map for seeking knowledge and compassion even at the worst of times, a book to make the world a better place.”—Cory Doctorow

 

“[L’Engle’s] work is one of the things that made me a writer, a science fiction and fantasy fan, an avid reader. Hers were the first books I read that mixed math and magic, the quest and the quantum.”—Scott Westerfeld

 

A Wrinkle in Time taught me that you can tackle even the deepest and most slippery concepts of physics and philosophy in fiction for young readers. It’s a great lesson for all writers, and a tough tesseract to follow.”—David Lubar

Meg Cabot

A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favorite books of all time. I've read it so often, I know it by heart. Meg Murry was my hero growing up. I wanted glasses and braces and my parents to stick me in an attic bedroom. And I so wanted to save Charles Wallace from IT.
Cory Doctorow

A book that every young person should read, a book that provides a road map for seeking knowledge and compassion even at the worst of times, a book to make the world a better place.
Scott Westerfeld

[L'Engle's] work is one of the things that made me a writer, a science fiction and fantasy fan, an avid reader. Hers were the first books I read that mixed math and magic, the quest and the quantum.
David Lubar

A Wrinkle in Time taught me that you can tackle even the deepest and most slippery concepts of physics and philosophy in fiction for young readers. It's a great lesson for all writers, and a tough tesseract to follow.
The Barnes & Noble Review

How does a work of fiction become beloved by generations of readers? Not merely admired but positively embraced like an intimate relative or friend?

Plainly, mere perfection of composition, while hardly a detriment, is not sufficient: many flawlessly written books do not excite this bond. A work that triggers primal emotions, is suspenseful and surprising, and juggles meaningful archetypes in an eternal pattern will stand a better chance at becoming cherished than one that only stimulates the intellect — though, paradoxically, it's intellectual heft that gives a great story longevity in the imagination. The tale's characters, of whatever morality, must resonate in a lifelike manner and appeal to our sympathies. And of course, if a particular story vibrates with the zeitgeist, it gets taken up more instinctively, however much it risks falling out of favor when times change.

But above all, to become loved a book has to first offer love: Openeness, affection for the reader, a sense that its universe exists on a substrate of agape. Ray Bradbury — perhaps the paradigmatic writer of this school — identified the phenomenon in his essay "Zen & the Art of Writing," where he urges an outpouring of the heart upon the page to win over readers. The romance between book and person is no different than that between two people. "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make," to quote a bunch of lads just starting out fifty years ago, when Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time first appeared. And if ever a book offered love and received love in return, Wrinkle qualifies.

Appearing in 1962 after a host of rejections nearly scuttled its publication, this Young Adult science fiction novel immediately began to captivate readers of all ages and critics as well, picking up a Newbery Award the very next year. Its popularity has never since waned, and the handsome new hardcover edition from its original publisher, Farrar Straus and Giroux, celebrates the occasion with class and verve, offering plenty of ancillary material. But that's only the wrapping around the original gift from author to readers, one whose sturdy and inspired and affectionate lineaments still shine forth.

For the few who don't know its story well — or for those whose memory of it has dimmed — A Wrinke in Time follows the otherworldly exploits of the tightly knit and quirky Murry family. Kate and Alex Murry, a pair of married scientists, are parents to a pair of well-adjusted twins and two quite different children: five-year-old prodigy Charles Wallace and Margaret, or Meg, a drama-derailed brainy adolescent whose slow-blooming talents will eventually manifest themselves when most in need. At book's outset, Mr. Murry has been absent from home for a full year, whereabouts unknown, putting the family dynamics under dark strain.

Quickly and almost simultaneously, some outsiders enter the picture: a likable neighbor boy named Calvin O'Keefe and three aliens dubbed Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. The Murry kids and Calvin quickly find themselves swept up in a galactic-scale battle against an evil force known as IT, an entity who has already ensnared Mr. Murry and soon entrains Charles Wallace as well. Ultimately, IT is conquered by nothing more nor less than the sheer force of Meg's pure love, and once again baby- boomer readers — the cohort that first clutched Wrinkle to its bosom — might hear strains of the Beatles, this time harmonizing on "All You Need Is Love."

Its virtues, of course, far exceed the sketch of its main action. Perhaps most appealing to young readers is the tender and clear-eyed depiction of a real family dynamic, an ensemble of varying personalities who all love each other intensely but whose strong, genius egos sometimes raise conflicts. As the focal character, imperfect Meg is inhabited with great intimacy by the author, and her emotional roller coaster is both exciting and deeply familiar. But the love between the adult Murrys emerges fully as well, as does the touching nascent romance between Meg and Calvin, and the social isolation of Charles Wallace. By allowing us into the normally hidden labyrinths of any family's mutual existence, L'Engle ensures readerly solidarity.

In the line of archetypical storytelling, L'Engle is no slouch either. Her fairy- tale tropes — abducted parent; arrival of the Gandalfian stranger(s) initiating a quest; far-voyaging; realms under a spell; well-met comrades; exotic vistas — are superbly arrayed yet never programmatic. Everything feels organic. One underplayed aspect of the telling is L'Engle's real sense of humor: the meeting between Meg and Calvin owes more than a little to Grant and Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. Satirical touches abound as well, and a line such as "IT sometimes calls ITself the Happiest Sadist" comes across as pure Lenny Bruce. But none of this undercuts the high stakes and suspense.

That L'Engle casts her tale as hard-edged science fiction rather than fantasy is another plus. SF has always been the underdog in YA novels of fantastika, appearing less often and selling in smaller numbers — at least till the triumph of The Hunger Games. And yet there's a power to well-done SF that fantasy just can't match. Narnia is captivating but arbitrary and unlikely of attainment. Heinlein's Have Space Suit — Will Travel is a map of a youngster's reachable or aspirational future.

I bring up Heinlein deliberately at this juncture to examine an issue that intrigues me: Madeleine L'Engle's possible familiarity with genre SF. I postulate that she was well acquainted with the major works in the field prior to her book. Her fluid use of genre tropes and conventions is just too powerful and assured. Had she not read anything prior, Wrinkle would have been the most miraculous ex nihilo reinvention of the wheel in literature. The Heinlein book had to be on her mind. In that 1958 novel, a young lad named Kip (with quirky Dad) is swept up in outer-space intrigue, adopted by a benevolent alien named the "Mother Thing" to fight an evil being dubbed "Wormface." The Heinlein model is too precisely followed — with unique changes, true — to be the product of chance.

Of course, one of L'Engle's key innovations lacking in Heinlein was the metaphysical angle, not precisely doctrinal Christianity but a kind of ecstatic theology of cosmic consciousness fully in tune with and foreshadowing the era of the High Sixties. In this mash-up of science and religion I see a deliberate echo of C. S. Lewis's great Ransom Trilogy, in which similar spiritual dimensions overlay conventional space travel.

Two other outstanding motifs recall another pair of genre writers. The whole Homo superior riff involving the Murry kids (L'Engle actually used the word mutant in the text before excising it) recalls Wilmar Shiras's Children of the Atom and a host of allied titles. And the monolithic establishment of "CENTRAL Central Intelligence" on Camazotz could be straight out of half a dozen A. E. van Vogt novels. Finally, L'Engle's allegorical layerings — is the totalitarian IT regime an analogue of communism or even of suburban USA ticky-tacky conformity? — are pure Galaxy magazine stylings.

But in any case, L'Engle marvelously altered and adapted a host of precedents and her own inventions and emotions to create a novel that tugged at the heartstrings, intrigued the imagination, and rode the wave of a generational sea change to a permanent place on the shelf. When at her moment of testing Meg is told, "We want nothing from you that you do without grace?or that you do without understanding," the young reader is given the honor of being treated as an adult with free agency and the capacity to plummet or soar.

Proud and self-sufficient, Wrinkle stood alone for eleven years before a direct sequel arrived. But L'Engle did make a lateral, second- generation excursion almost immediately. In 1965 came The Arm of the Starfish. Meg and Calvin were married, and parents to a new heroine, twelve-year-old Polly O'Keefe, one of seven siblings. (Polly would subsequently star in Dragons in the Waters from 1976 and A House like a Lotus from 1984.)

But it probably would have been impossible for any writer to resist creating further adventures for Charles Wallace and Meg. Eventually, by 1989, discounting the three Polly O'Keefe books, A Wrinkle in Time emerged as the foundation of a quintet. And while the four follow-ups are eminently readable, they lack the majesty and integral essentialness and lovability of the first. They're simply well done and fun and even illuminating, without being endearing.

Wrinkle ends with the line "[T]here was a gust of wind, and they were gone." So it's fitting that another wind brings adventure back into the life of Meg Murry and her posse. When A Wind in the Door opens, a year or so has passed for the characters. It's autumn again — L'Engle's avowed favorite season — and indeed all the volumes of the quintet take place either in that season or in winter. Charles Wallace has started school and is being bullied. Mr. Murry is gone on assignment (the missing-father motif without quite the same urgency), Meg and Calvin are trying to define their relationship, and suddenly a "dragon" manifests. The dragon turns out to be an alien (or an angel — a distinction always carefully elided in L?Engle?s books) called ?a cherubim? and named Proginoskes, accompanied by a Teacher alien named Blajeny. They bring news of another quest for Meg, against the evil Echthroi — and to save the life of a sickened Charles Wallace.

While the story is enthralling, it's a bit more diffuse, slow-paced, and nebulous than Wrinkle?s interstellar rescue mission. Having much of the action occur within a metaphysical structure known as "the postulatom Metron Ariston" is akin to staging a tale in virtual reality: one loses tangibility and physicality, and anything seems possible, perceptually anyhow. Moreover, with Charles Wallace out of commission, dying in bed, we lose his active presence. Likewise, Calvin seems underutilized to me. Lastly, a curious instance of retconning: Wrinkle firmly inhabited the New Frontier, Cold War reality of 1962, but all of a sudden in Wind, just "one year later," we're living in post–Richard Nixon Eco-doom 1973. It's a tad jarring, as when current Batman comics have him growing up in the 1980s rather than the 1930s of his first origins.

A cousin wind flows through A Swiftly Tilting Planet, but it's the wind of time. Some ten years have gone by for Meg. She's married to Calvin (lamentably offstage for the whole book) and pregnant with unborn Polly. Thanksgiving finds the whole clan reunited, along with Calvin's irascible mother. A geopolitical crisis is brewing (courtesy of the distantly plotting Echthroi), and Charles Wallace is tasked with solving it. His voyage of comprehending involves astral time travel via corporeal possession of past residents of their New England village, courtesy of a unicorn guide named Gaudior. Meg stays mentally bonded to her brother during the whole chrono-odyssey, thanks to the skill of "kything" she learned in the prior book. Charles Wallace's tinkering with the continuum resets the timeline, and all is well. L'Engle achieves a nice frisson by equating years of subjective time-travel with a single night in Meg's perceptions, but Meg's role as passive observer and support are disappointing, and Charles Wallace's adventures in historical time hardly rival the trip to Camazotz.

The fourth volume, Many Waters, is surely the most anomalous and least satisfying. First, it's an interstitial adventure, set at the period when Meg was still a college student. And it stars the twin brothers of the Murry family, Sandy and Dennys, figures I've failed to mention before due to their utter normality and prior employment as spear carriers. Not precisely banal, they now carry the entire weight of the novel, as we are bereft of Meg, Charles Wallace, and all the others. Tampering with Mr. Murry's equipment, the boys end up back in the biblical Middle East and discover a supernatural domain true to Scripture. Seraphim and nephilim exist, as do a host of other mystical creatures, and humans live for centuries like Methuselah. As physical castaways in time, the boys do not have Charles Wallace's astral protection, and they face rigors and challenges that do contribute to a new maturity on their part. As well, parallels are drawn between biblical legends and quantum physics. But the James Michener ambiance of this outing — I'm thinking of The Source — is not in the same league with the cosmic adventures of the previous books.

The quintet concludes with An Acceptable Time, an installment that also brings Polly's spinoff solo adventures to a close. Polly, now seventeen, is visiting her grandparents at the ancestral New England home. She discovers a time gate she is able to use by her inherent ability to "tesser," the same skill her grandfather developed in the first book. She and a family friend, Bishop Colubra, as well as a boy her own age, Zach, journey back 3,000 years to an era when the People of the Wind inhabited the land. A Goddess-worshipping society, hybridized with Druid visitors from across the Atlantic, they welcome Polly as a celestial being of power. But she almost ends up as a human sacrifice before all is resolved.

This final volume features a passage that addresses Meg Murry's offstage domesticity and apparent lack of a more glorious destiny, with Mrs. Murry and Polly having a talk about Meg. Mrs. Murry blames Meg's lack of self- confidence and lowered career expectations on herself, to some degree, but she ultimately affirms Meg's lot as a satisfying and worthy one. This alibi is not a patch on having Meg present as her feisty teenage self, but it's something. L'Engle reaffirms her vision of love as central (Dr. Louise Colubra: "Whatever we give, we have to give out of love. That, I believe, is the nature of God.") and the only real bad guy in the book, Zach, exhibits the fatal flaw of being unable to love anyone but himself.

Ultimately, A Wind in the Door comes closest to replicating the joys and vistas of Wrinkle: the subsequent three books in the series seem constricted and limited by comparison, taking place in smaller, Earthbound arenas and bereft of the same compelling family dynamics. Moreover, despite some scientific rationalizations, none achieve the amalgam of space opera and theurgy that saturates the chapters of Wrinkle. Madeleine L'Engle channeled a burst of agape-rich storytelling when she wrote Wrinkle, a work that has gloriously endured. Her follow-up tales are a saint's attempts to recapture and recount the epiphany that is no longer immanent.

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award — all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, andThe San Francisco Chronicle.

Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374386160
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 1/31/2012
  • Series: Time Quintet Series, #1
  • Edition description: Special Edition, 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition
  • Edition number: 50
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 152,517
  • Age range: 11 - 15 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007) was the Newbery Medal-winning author of more than 60 books, including the much-loved A Wrinkle in Time. Born in 1918, L'Engle grew up in New York City, Switzerland, South Carolina and Massachusetts. Her father was a reporter and her mother had studied to be a pianist, and their house was always full of musicians and theater people. L'Engle graduated cum laude from Smith College, then returned to New York to work in the theater. While touring with a play, she wrote her first book, The Small Rain, originally published in 1945. She met her future husband, Hugh Franklin, when they both appeared in The Cherry Orchard.

Upon becoming Mrs. Franklin, L'Engle gave up the stage in favor of the typewriter. In the years her three children were growing up, she wrote four more novels. Hugh Franklin temporarily retired from the theater, and the family moved to western Connecticut and for ten years ran a general store. Her book Meet the Austins, an American Library Association Notable Children's Book of 1960, was based on this experience.

Her science fantasy classic A Wrinkle in Time was awarded the 1963 Newbery Medal. Two companion novels, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (a Newbery Honor book), complete what has come to be known as The Time Trilogy, a series that continues to grow in popularity with a new generation of readers. Her 1980 book A Ring of Endless Light won the Newbery Honor. L'Engle passed away in 2007 in Litchfield, Connecticut.

Biography

Madeleine L'Engle Camp was born in New York City and educated in boarding schools in Switzerland and across the United States. A shy, withdrawn child with few friends, she retreated into writing at an early age. She attended Smith College, graduating summa cum laude in 1941. After college, she worked in the New York theatre, where she met her future husband, Hugh Franklin. (Later she would say that they "met in The Cherry Orchard and married during The Joyous Season.") Her first book, The Small Rain (1945), was completed while she was still working as an actress.

After the birth of their first child, Madeleine and her husband moved to rural Connecticut to run a small general store; but in 1959, they returned to New York City with their three children so Hugh Franklin could resume his acting career (For many years, he played Dr. Charles Tyler on the popular television soap opera All My Children.) Although Madeleine wrote steadily during this period, few of her books were published. Then, in 1960, she released her first children's story, Meet the Austins. An affectionate portrait of a close-knit family, the book was named an ALA Notable Children's Book of the year and spawned several bestselling sequels.

Completed in 1960, L'Engle's science fiction YA classic A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by more than two dozen publishers before Farrar, Straus and Giroux finally released it in 1962. Elegant, imaginative, and filled with complex moral themes, the acclaimed Newbery Medal winner tells the story of Meg Murry, a young girl who travels through time with her psychically gifted younger brother to rescue their scientist father from a planet controlled by an evil entity known as the Dark Thing. Throughout her career, L'Engle would return to the Murry family three more times, in A Wind in the Door (1973), A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978), and Many Waters (1986). The Time Quartet, as these four books have come to be called, weaves together elements of theology and quantum physics often assumed to be far too esoteric for children to understand. Yet, it became a true classic of juvenalia. L'Engle explained once, "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

In addition to her YA novels, the prolific writer also penned adult fiction, poems, plays, memoirs, and religious meditations. She served as the longtime librarian and writer-in-residence for the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Madeleine L'Engle passed away at a nursing home in Connecticut in 2007.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      1918112
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, NY
    1. Date of Death:
      September 6, 2007
    2. Place of Death:
      Litchfield, CT
    1. Education:
      Smith College, 1941

Read an Excerpt



Excerpt


"Now, don't be frightened, loves," Mrs. Whatsit said. Her plump little body began to shimmer, to quiver, to shift. The wild colors of her clothes became muted, whitened. The pudding-bag shape stretched, lengthened, merged. And suddenly before the children was a creature more beautiful than any Meg had even imagined, and the beauty lay in far more than the outward description. Outwardly Mrs. Whatsit was surely no longer a Mrs. Whatsit. She was a marble-white body with powerful flanks, something like a horse but at the same time completely unlike a horse, for from the magnificently modeled back sprang a nobly formed torso, arms, and a head resembling a man's, but a man with a perfection of dignity and virtue, an exaltation of joy such as Meg had never before seen. No, she thought, it's not like a Greek centaur. Not in the least.

From the shoulders slowly a pair of wings unfolded, wings made of rainbows, of light upon water, of poetry.

Calvin fell to his knees.

"No," Mrs. Whatsit said, though her voice was not Mrs. Whatsit's voice. "Not to me, Calvin. Never to me. Stand up."

"Ccarrry themm," Mrs. Which commanded.

With a gesture both delicate and strong Mrs. Whatsit knelt in front of the children, stretching her wings wide and holding them steady, but quivering. "Onto my back, now," the new voice said.

The children took hesitant steps toward the beautiful creature.

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Reading Group Guide

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
1. The opening sentence of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's novel Paul Clifford, published in 1830,
begins with the phrase: "It was a dark and stormy night…." Often considered the worst opening line in literature, writers, including the beagle Snoopy, have attempted in jest to begin their stories with the same line. When Madeleine L'Engle's children would ask her to tell a story, she would always begin with "It was a dark and stormy night…." So it was no surprise that she would use it to begin her novel and send you on the journey to A Wrinkle in Time.
Now it's your turn to take a stab at it. Write a story of your own that begins with "It was a dark and stormy night…." See who in your class can write the best of the worst. And have fun doing it!
The fun doesn't have to stop there. Since 1982, the English department at San Jose State
University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst novel. Anyone can enter, so why not give it a chance? You can get all the information at: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/.
2. Meg and Charles Wallace meet Calvin O'Keefe by chance on their way to see Mrs Whatsit. Calvin says: "Maybe we weren't meant to meet before this, I mean I knew who you were in school and everything, but I didn't know you."
Calvin believes that they were fated to meet this way. What about you? Do you believe in fate?
Do you have a friend about whom you feel this way--someone you feel is just supposed to be in your life? Do people meet for the first time because they are fated to? Discuss the development of
Meg's and Calvin's fate throughout A Wrinkle in Time.
3. The relationship between Meg and Charles Wallace is a very special one. He can sense what she
Is feeling, and she knows that whatever her faults are, at least he loves her dearly. It was Meg's love for her brother that rescued him from the powers of IT. Is this like sibling relationships in other books you've read? What kind of relationships do you have with your siblings?
4. Meg and her mother discuss Charles Wallace:
Meg: "Charles Wallace understand more than the rest of us, doesn't he?"
Mrs. Murry: "Yes…I suppose because he's--well, because he's different, Meg….Charles Wallace is what he is. Different. New … Charles Wallace's difference isn't physical. It's in his essence."
What does their mother mean that his essence is different? What are the characteristics that make him different? Everyone has their own uniqueness. Do you and your friends see this as a negative characteristic or a positive one? Every class has a kid like Charles Wallace. How is he/she treated by the others? Is there a little bit of Charles in you?
5. The people who live in Meg's town have a dim view of her and Charles Wallace. "I've heard that clever people of often have subnormal children," Meg had once overhead. "The two boys seem to be nice, regular children, but that unattractive girl and the baby boy certainly aren't all there."
Were these observations justified? Is it right for people to judge others that way? How did their perceptions of Meg affect the way she felt and acted? How did it affect Charles Wallace? How are you affected by others' perceptions of you?
6. It [her father's hair] was pushed back from his shoulders, so that he looked like someone from another century or a shipwrecked sailor.
She [Meg] had been so certain that the moment she found her father everything would be all right…all the problems would be taken out of her hands…. Instead…Her adored father was bearded and thin and white and not omnipotent after all.
Why is Meg disappointed? Were her expectations about her father reasonable? What has she realized about him?
We all put our parents on pedestals when we are young. When did you realize that your parents were "just human?" How did this realization change your relationship with them? How did it change your feelings?
7. Mrs Who has difficulty expressing herself, so she uses quotations from classical literature and expressions in foreign languages to articulate her views. For example, she quotes the Roman philosopher Seneca:
Ab honesto virum bonum nihil deterret." Translated from Latin, it means, "Nothing deters a good man from doing what is honorable."
Think about famous phrases that you know from film, music, or literature. Translate them into foreign languages. This way, you can express yourself and confound others. The best way to translate the expression is to find foreign language speakers, because expressions are often idiomatic, and lose their flavor when translated word for word. Or you can try using Web sites that will translate English into other languages. One is http://babelfish.altavista.com/tr. It can translate words and phrases form English into almost any language and vice versa.
Make a chart, so you will have easy reference to the expressions.
Have fun and be multilingual.
8. You can follow Mrs Who's model by creating conversations using quotations. Work with a partner to create a dialogue, or work with several friends and write a whole scene. Pick a subject. Then go to Barlett's Familiar Quotations or to Web pages to find famous quotations on your theme. Some Web sites that will be useful are:
http://www.coolquotes.com www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
You'll find hundreds of quotes--from speakers as diverse as Homer, Seneca, Nietzsche, Simon
Cowell, and Homer Simpson. Virtually every topic is covered.
Put together your dialogue or scene, and perform it for your class.
9. When people band together to accomplish a specific goal, it is helpful for them to bring different talents and abilities. This is surely the case with Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin. Mrs Whatsit points out their differences as she gives each a little talisman:
"Calvin, your great gift is your ability to communicate, to communicate with all kinds of people….So for you, I will strengthen it. Meg, I give you your faults.…I think you'll find they come in very handy on Camazotz.…Charles Wallace, I can only give you the resilience of your childhood."
How do their differences strengthen the "whole?" Could two of them have accomplished what the three of them did? Why or why not? Could any one of them have done it alone? In your own experiences, how have you worked with others to reach a common goal?
10. "You three children will be on your own. We will be near you; we will be watching you. But you will not be able to see us or to ask us for help, and we will not be able to come to you."
Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which set the three children off on a quest of dangerous proportions. Why did they send them off alone? Wouldn't it have been better for them to accompany the children and be part of the rescue? What then are the roles that Mrs Whatsit, Mrs
Who, and Mrs Which play in the novel?
11. In front of all the houses children were playing….Meg felt vaguely that something was wrong with their play…."Look!" Charles Wallace said suddenly. They're skipping and bouncing in rhythm! Everyone's doing it at exactly the same moment."
A Camazotz mother said, "They're all perfectly trained."
All up and down the block, heads nodded in agreement.
Compare the behavior of the children of Camzotz with that of children from Meg's hometown.
Which way of acting do you think Meg's principal would prefer? Why does the principal want Meg to conform to the other children in the school? Madeleine L'Engle is making a point by creating parallels. What do you think the author's point of view is on this subject? How else does she tell you this?
12. Mrs Whatsit tells the children, "…All through the universe [the Dark Thing is] being fought, all through the cosmos…and maybe it won't seem strange that some of our very best fighters have come right from your very own planet…."
Who are these fighters? What are the "weapons" these fighters have used? Are they violent?
What characteristics do they have in common? Who from historical times would you add to the list of enemies of the Dark Thing? Make a list of contemporary people who exhibit the same traits as those mentioned in the book. How have they been fighting the Dark Thing?
13. Why does Meg come to the realization that she is the only one who can save Charles Wallace?
Compare this to other stories you know from literature or film where the main character has to complete the quest alone.
14. Madeleine L'Engle built aspects of A Wrinkle in Time on science, mythology, and religion. For example, the hymn intoned by the creatures on the planet Uriel. Find references in the novel that illustrate these connections.
15. A Wrinkle in Time straddles two literary genres. The quest that Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin are on, for example, links the novel to fantasy. Tessering links it to science fiction. Find other aspects of the novel that connect it to one or the other of these forms. Compare A Wrinkle in
Time to other books, films, and televisions shows that fall into one or the other category. For fantasy, consider The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. For science fiction, think about Star
Trek and Star Wars. Talk about how it stands up in comparison.
16. Writers create out of their own experiences. During the time Madeleine L'Engle was writing A
Wrinkle in Time, the world was a very unsettled place. The United States and the Soviet Union were embroiled in a Cold War where democracy and individual freedom of expression were threatened by totalitarianism and collectivism. Fear pervaded everyone's thinking. This was the backdrop that influenced the writing of the book. Discuss how that atmosphere is expressed in the novel. What elements of political ideology are reflected in how Camazotz is controlled by IT?
When the Cold War ended in the 1990s, did its dangers end with it? If Madeleine L'Engle were writing the book today, what political realities would be the major influences on its writing?
17. Mrs Whatsit's explanation of tessering is similar to the concept of wormholes, the favored method of travel in many science fiction movies and literature. Putting it simply, traveling through a wormhole provides a quick way to travel the astronomical distances of space without the passage of time. Is this possible according to modern physics? What would Einstein think of tessering? Can tessering be explained by Einstein's special theory of relativity? Do some research.
First, look into time travel and Einstein's theory to see if it's theoretically possible. Then look into wormholes. Do they have any scientific basis, or is it what Mrs Who might say in quoting William Shakespeare, "Such stuff that dreams are made on?" Ask your friends what they think. Take a poll and survey the school.
Web sites that will be useful to you are:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/time http://science.howstuffworks.com/relativity.htm http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/W/wormhole.html
18. On the summit of a tall mountain, Mrs Whatsit shows the children a shadow high above the clouds which encircles the mountain.
It was a shadow, nothing but a shadow. It was not even as tangible as a cloud.…
What could there be about a shadow that was so terrible that she [Meg] knew there had never been before or would be again anything that would chill her with a fear that was beyond shuttering, beyond crying or screaming, beyond the possibility of comfort?
What is that shadow, that Dark Thing? In the context of the story, how does the Dark
Thing manifest itself? Will its effect on Earth be the same as it is on Camazotz, or will it appear as another kind of evil?
You can look at the Dark Thing as a metaphor. There have been evils throughout history that have plagued mankind. What are some examples of man's inhumanity to man? Look at today's newspaper. What are the modern "shadows" that threaten society and individuality?
19. Mrs Whatsit compares human lives to that of a sonnet. The sonnet has strict rules. Fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, but with that form, the poet can say whatever he wants to. "You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."
This statement of free will is at the core of the novel. Discuss the notion of free will. How free are we to make choices for our own lives? What restrictions do we face: physical, parental, societal,
legal, and religious? Is there any society in which freedom of personal choice is absolute?
20. The quest to save Meg's father and subsequently Charles Wallace was a success, but the Dark
Thing still looms heavily over Earth. What will happen next? Will the Dark Thing ever be defeated? Try your hand in writing a sequel. Then read the books that complete the Time
Quintet by Madeleine L'Engle:
A Wind in the Door
A Swiftly Tilting Planet
Many Waters
An Acceptable Time

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 1464 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1468 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    my favorite :)

    this book is soo good. its such a heartwarming story and i just LOVE the ending. i can read this book over and over again for sure

    51 out of 57 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2008

    MY SUPER BORING REVIEW ABOUT A SUPER AWESOME BOOK

    A Wrinkle in Time<BR/>Madeline L'engle<BR/>Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers<BR/>science-fiction<BR/><BR/> <BR/><BR/> Forever the mystery has hung against the earth and the minds of humans; are we alone? Or in some distant galaxy, are there life forms that are like us? In Madeline's L'engle's astonishing book, A Wrinkle In Time, Meg, Calvin, and Charles collide with the answer as they try to save their father. After more than a year after his disappearance, Meg and Charles Wallace still feel a knot in their hearts if their father's name is mentioned. The kids meet three strange ladies with the names Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit , and Mrs. Which, each shows them the evil darkness of the world and gives each kid a gift holding the potential to change that evil and darkness as well as to save Meg's father. Mrs. Whatsit take them through space where they meet people who can barely walk without perfection and rhythm, people who are basically clones of each other, doing the same thing at the same time. How is this possible? Before they realize it, the old ladies vanish as if they were never there to start with, leaving the kids alone on a planet like Earth. In a series of odd events, Charles Wallace becomes hypnotized. The thoughts of Meg switch from her father to her little brother, who is losing control of his body. Suddenly Meg must revert the bind in which Charles Wallace is constricted to, in which her own imperfections are the only things she has, and a brain is the only thing between her and Charles. Maybe her imperfections can stop her brother from being lost forever. <BR/><BR/> Meg views herself as ugly, with her large round glasses, mouse brown hair, and metal braces stuck to her teeth, she is a shy middle schooler always besieged and beset by the principal. Later as you read on, you will realize that Meg is more heroic than what's on the outside. Her features blur her personality. She is always teased because of her brother who everyone thinks is ¿stupid¿ and ¿unable to speak.¿ But these are all lies; the real Charles Wallace is a very young and intelligent boy who always knows what his mother and sister are doing. His bravery and fearlessness lead him to a lot of trouble such as falling into the control of another brain, making him do things he wouldn't normally do. Luckily, Calvin who is a 15 year old boy smothered with freckles, red hair, and a softness for Meg, was given the gift of communication. He may be able to grasp Charles from ¿It¿ who I vaguely referenced in the first paragraph as an ugly brain. ¿It¿ controls humans to make their actions all superficially the same... with some nasty twists and touches. When these characters coalesce, strange things happen.<BR/><BR/> I highly recommend this Newberry award winning book. It is an authentic science-fiction novel cut and sliced into a nice little package. Those who've enjoyed learning about aliens will love reading this book. And those who are interested in time and space, you will love it even more (who can resist science-fiction?) It has it's own section about science at the end. Truly, this is a delightful page turner. It encourages honesty and readers will truly understand what love is (not the mushy type!) L'engle's book is a book that should be in every kid's collection of stories for it is a ¿kid classic.¿ Though readers will blow the pages away, the memory of this book will never leave their minds and brains. And speaking of brains...

    34 out of 71 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2011

    A "must read" for every young adult (and young at heart)!

    This classic tale of Meg and her brother Charles Wallace has been in my subconscious ever since I read it when I was a child. The themes of good versus evil, the hero being a young misfit girl who I could readily identify with, all gave me hope that I would one day be someone who could make a difference (although I didn't see how). This book is more than just a book - it is a message that "everything is going to be all right" without sugarcoating the evil that lurks outside and without hiding the fact that you, the next generation, is what has to fight it. A MUST READ for every YA reader. If it wasn't on my Nook, I'd sleep with it under my pillow.

    26 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    A Wrinkle in Time

    I purchased this book for my granddaughter to read. She and I took turns reading the book to one another. We found it most delightful. We were able to vocalize the various parts and it was great fun. Great reading for all ages.

    24 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2010

    This was one of my FAVORITE books as a child!

    This book was one of my favorites as a child and I re-read it as an adult as well as reading all of the companion books (A Wind in the Door, Swiftly Tilting Planet, etc.) I loved them both as a child and an adult. The characters show a whole range of personalities and struggles as well as character traits such as bravery and kindness.

    17 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 15, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Harry Potter Who?

    Just kidding; I still like Harry Potter. But Madeleine L'Engle is definately supieror when it comes to character development. Meg - the protagonist - is really likeable, and I also enjoy the evident closeness displayed between her and her brother Charles Wallace. I rmember reading this just barely out of Elementary - I loved it! I'm 20 now and have read it twice more since then and still enjoy it. Great for all ages and a perfect 5 stars!

    17 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2012

    10 stars!!!!!!!!!

    I have read the entire series. It is so creative, well paced, adventurous, and absolutly AMAZING! Please buy it! You will be enthralled with it!

    15 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2012

    In my personal opinion...

    This book is truely unique, I must say. Reading the other reviews, I see it aint everyone's cup 'o tea. And that's completely acceptable! People have different tastes and intrests and I respect that. You cant judge this book by its covor, nor can you take one's word for it. This book took me to Meg's house and the planet Uri in surprising, beautiful detail.
    , its 100% Kid friendly, (For the moms reading this that are looking for appropriate books for their children to read)
    and very good Christain qualities. I wont give any of the bool away, but if you have your spiritual eyes open you can see those quallities right away. In other words, I personally loved it and I reccomend that one would at least give it a chance.

    15 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Disappointed

    I thought I'd love this book. Everyone I've talked to has said how much they loved it. But I just didn't like it. Charles Wallace first of all, is a terrible name. I only liked Mrs, Whatsit, Who, and Which. The rest of the characters were barely tolerable.

    I wish I had read this when I was younger, I think I may have enjoyed it more.

    14 out of 38 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2012

    This was WORST book I have EVER read and I'm writing this review

    This was WORST book I have EVER read and I'm writing this review to make sure YOU don't waste your time reading this horrible book! It has the worst &quot;plot&quot; (if you could call it that) I've ever and will ever read, and the characters are the most ridiculous 1-dimensional people I've ever read about! You know why I hate it? A) It's horrible. B) It's ending is horrible, because Meg &quot;saves the universe with her ability to love&quot; BORING! and C), It's supposed &quot;cliff hanger&quot; just made sure I would never read the next books unless I'm planning to push myself into such depression I feel no need to live. DON'T READ IT!

    13 out of 52 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

    Don't waste your time reading this book!

    In "A Wrinkle in Time", supposedly fatherless Meg, younger brother genius Charles Wallace, and popular, basketball playing Calvin set out on a journey to find Mr.Murray, Charles Wallace and Meg's father. They fist stop at a dreamlike planet that is like a spring paradise, but they leave quickly. The children are brought to the planet Camazotz by the tessering, or teleporting through the fifth dimension, of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. The Mrs. W's are unable to go on Camazotz because of the evil there. Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin are left there. In an attempt to free Meg's father from the evil IT, Charles is taken over by IT. Meg must use her ability to love to destroy IT and save mankind. In the end, the story takes an unexpected twist that leads into the rest of the series.

    "A Wrinkle in Time" was a horrible book. The storyline was mediocre, and I had to force myself to read it to the end. The end was completely underwhelming, and the "epic" cliffhanger just made sure I didn't finish the series. The characters didn't have much depth, and the end wasn't anything I hadn't already read 20 times. Please don't waste your time reading "A Wrinkle in Time". I gave it 1 star for a reason.

    9 out of 37 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2012

    Question

    I read the sample
    Should i get it?

    8 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 19, 2011

    Pretty Good.....

    This book was on my summer reading list. I thought it was okay. But at times, it would get a little strange.

    7 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2010

    THE ABSOLUTE WORST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ!!!!!!

    This book was completly terrible!To me it was pointless and kind of stupid. I don't recomend anyone to read this book. I have read very many books but this is the only book I couldn't finish reading!

    7 out of 51 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2007

    Christian parents beware

    My son brought the book home as required reading and it looked like a great read. And so it is! A very interesting, well spun story. However, the author purposely dethrones Jesus as the Son of God by mentioning him as a mere man just like other great men who have lived on this earth. We need to be careful to know what our children are being 'taught' even in fun and intriguing literature.

    7 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2012

    F

    I give this book a major F!!!!! I do NOT recomend this book tp anyone! L'engle should not have put such a confusing story plot, i was confused from the first page to the last! I like to write little stories myself, but they are not confusing like this one was. A two year old could have written a better story plot. And the Mrs. W's? Who understood those people? And the 'IT'? What's with that? My folks say it's five stars, but I DISAGREE!!! I could barely understand every sentence the author threw at me! I am totally in agreement with all the other one star raters. This book was NOT GOOD!!!

    6 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2012

    good for all ages

    I read "A Wrinkle in Time" first when i was in grade school...i loved it then..Now, almost 30 years later barnes&noble has a new edition on nook..bought it..still love it as much now as i did when i was a kid!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2012

    Important, Amazing Book should be required reading.

    4th grade and up, all should read it, then re-read it every 10 years so you don't forget the importance of imagination in our lives to help us find new and better ways to use our gifts to serve others and create our own lives.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 21, 2009

    I read the book back when

    I loved the book when I read it. But its not a book that sticks in your mind. I watched the movie and I remember more but before the movie I only remember the basic and the parts that the kids in my class highlighted.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2000

    A Waste of Time

    I read this book for a school assignment in sixth grade, and found it very confusing and hard to follow. I'm all for fantasy, but when it's this far-fetched and complex, it gets a bit ridiculous. I may have enjoyed it more had I been reading for pleasure, but we had to answer stance questions, and it was extremely difficult to pull answers out of the text. If you aren't in the mood to interpret, I wouldn't recommend this book.

    5 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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