A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, does such a great job of exploring so many themes in one story that it’s challenge to come up with recommendations for those who love it. Is it smart, ornery Meg the reader loves, the story of family and friendship that’s central to the book, or are they inspired by the conflict between good and evil, with love and the best of the human spirit winning? Does the reader want more like the dystopia of Camazotz, or the strangeness of Aunt Beast and her alien planet? With one exception, the books gathered here don’t do everything A Wrinkle in Time does, but hopefully there’s something for every young fan!
A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel, by Madeleine L’Engle and Hope Larson
Here’s that one exception mentioned above—the graphic novel version is beautifully faithful to the original story, down to the smallest details of Meg’s journey through time and space! If you’ve read the original, you’ll be charmed by the illustrations, and if you haven’t, this is a friendly introduction. Though its close adherence to the original shows in its length (389 pages), it’s still a very inviting presentation of the story for those daunted by large text blocks, as just about every word is either dialogue, or Meg’s thoughts, and everything else is told by the fabulous pictures.
The Countdown Conspiracy, by Katie Slivensky
For many of us grown-ups, Meg Murray was the first fictional girl we ever met who was a whiz at math and science. Happily there are lots more now, and one of my recent favorites is Miranda Regent, a robotics prodigy picked to be part of Earth’s first mission to Mars. Six kids in all are chosen from around the world as a peace building effort, and sent to train together in Antarctica. But someone doesn’t want Miranda on the mission. Soon not only is her life in danger, but the whole mission is in jeopardy, and when the liftoff happens, the dangers get worse. Miranda’s combination of self-doubt and fierce intelligence is perfect for fans of Meg, and the story is exciting enough for just about anyone.
A Crack in the Sea, by H.M. Bouwman
Here’s a middle grade fantasy novel that combines krakens, the horrific tragedy of the Atlantic slave trade, the horrors endured by Vietnamese boat people, and a Second World where people (some with magical gifts) live peacefully on tropical islands and on a floating raft town. What unites all these threads is a crack in the sea; unpredictably opening to let people from our first world fall though. What makes it Wrinkle in Time-like is the importance of sibling bonds (three sets of siblings are central to the story), the story thread of a determined girl setting out to save her kidnapped little brother, and a hopeful, optimistic sense that horrors of the past don’t have to define the present. There’s a bit of a fairy tale feel to the Second World, but happily, the people who live there are in fact people, and so have the misunderstandings, and personal growth moments, and hurts, that make characters interesting to read about!
The Gauntlet, by Karuna Riazi
Here’s another book about chasing after a little brother into a fantasy world run by a dictator whose rules must be thwarted in order to return home. 12-year-old Farah is given a birthday game, the Gauntlet of Blood and Sand, whose rules suggest the world of the game is real. Her little brother, who has ADHD, bursts in on Farah and her two friends as they’re setting it up and enters the game, disappearing from the real world. Farah is used to running after him, and is determined to get him back, so into the game she goes with her friends. They find themselves in a magical, Near Eastern/South Asian based world of sandstorms and minarets, where they must pass a series of timed challenges. The descriptions and rapidly shifting scenes are beautifully vivid, and the puzzles, and final confrontation with the Architect of the game, is gripping reading!
Beyond the Doors, by David Nielsen
Finding and holding fast to family is central to this story of a house packed full of fantastical magical doors, and the kids who open them. With their father in the hospital after a house fire, four siblings are dropped on the doorstep of their one known relative, Aunt Gladys, who doesn’t know how to look after them. Her house is full of piles and piles of doors that the kids are forbidden to touch, but they do. The doors open into memories of times both recent and long ago, and in the worlds beyond the doors, they meet their grandfather, trying to navigate the memories that are steadily going sour around him. Somewhere in the memories their lost mother is trapped, and the kids are determined to save her, by traveling deeper into the secrets of their family’s past. Travels through different dimensions and the ways in which memory and time are twisted will appeal lots to A Wrinkle in Time fans.
Ambassador, by William Alexander
Though he’s only 11, Gabe Fuentes has been picked by an alien envoy to be Earth’s ambassador to the alien civilizations. He’s happy to meet other sentient beings in the virtual reality of the “embassy.” But the job is challenging. An aggressive species is conquering planet after planet, sending alien refugees fleeing into space. And someone, or something, is lurking in Earth’s own asteroid belt and not broadcasting friendly messages. On top of that, someone is trying to assassinate Gabe. Life on earth isn’t any better. Gabe’s Mexican parents are in the country illegally, and when his dad is caught rolling through a stop sign he ends up in jail, waiting to be deported. Then Gabe’s house implodes (not by chance). Gabe’s family needs him badly…but so does Earth. This is a lovely adventure that melds elements of sci fi with fantasy, much like A Wrinkle in Time; in both books, science can’t explain everything that happens. If you want plucky kids saving the Earth against evil, this is the book for you! (And you will want to have the second book, Nomad, on hand to start reading immediately…)
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead
Here’s a Newbery Award winner that is in part a homage to A Wrinkle in Time. Miranda is a sixth grader in New York in 1979, and A Wrinkle in Time is her favorite book. Like Meg Murray, she’s about to have her world upended…but instead of traveling far away to get to her adventure, it arrives on her door. It comes as a strange homeless man living outside her apartment building, as a boy walking up to her best friend Sal and punching him in the stomach for no reason, and as cryptic notes tucked where only she will find them. “Tessar well,” says one note…and though Miranda doesn’t get a chance to travel in time, she will have to tell the story of a twist in time and space that leads to an ending where all the clues come together in an ending that’s perfectly satisfying.
Becoming Madeleine, by Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Lena Roy
Finally, the new biography of Madeleine L’Engle, written by her grand-daughters, is a must read for any lover of A Wrinkle in Time. That book wasn’t completed until L’Engle was in her early forties, but reading about L’Engle’s journey toward becoming its writer is still fascinating, and will inspire kids who dream of being writers themselves. It’s aimed at middle grade readers, and written in straightforward prose, with lots of photographs and diary extracts. And as her life gets closer to the publication date of A Wrinkle in Time, there are lovely little bits of information about how it came to be that will delight fans!