Friday, February 17, 2012

A Wrinkle In Time: For the First Time

50 years ago this week, Madeleine L'Engle published one of the most beloved children's books of all time - A WRINKLE IN TIME.  In addition to winning the prestigious Newberry Medal, this children's book went on to receive countless awards, and has been found on almost every "Best of Children's Books" lists ever since.

Yet, I just read A WRINKLE IN TIME for the first time!   Thanks to the 50 Blogs in 50 Days Celebration, I was given the opportunity to read the 50th Anniversary Edition. 

I cannot possibly review this book as I would a newly published novel.  Instead, allow me to share some of the thoughts that crossed my mind after the initial WOW moment. And, yes, there were a lot of WOW moments.

This book was NOT at ALL what I expected!  (In a good way...)

"It was a dark and stormy night"  - Chapter One

First Line:  I chuckled out loud when I read the first line.  Was SHE the first one to start a story with, "It was a dark and stormy night"?  Funny, even though this line is so familiar to me, I don't recall actually reading it anywhere else...

First thoughts:  The language!  The vocabulary!  How nice to read a children's book that doesn't simplify the language for them.  Rather, I'm sure L'Engle makes a young person feel a bit smarter for choosing her book!

WOW:  My original intention was to read this lovely book and take notes from one chapter to the next, recording my progress on my blog all week.  My plans went out the window after I finished the second chapter, in which L'Engle writes, "You don't have to understand things for them to be."  No kidding!  Before I knew it I was on Chapter Ten, and still wondering where, what, how, and when.  What a ride!

"We're going to be friends, you know..." - Calvin, Chapter 3

Characters:  How a character can be both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time still baffles me, and I don't think I've ever met a character like Meg, Calvin, Charles Wallace or Mrs. Whatsit...ever!  I am so completely enamored with Calvin.  I feel a strange connection to Meg - so emotional and misunderstood.  I'm also wondering if I don't have a version of Charles Wallace living under my roof at the moment! I love them all!

Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which:  I am still trying to fit together the puzzles of these three characters.  Were they supposed to be the Three Sisters of Fate?  I could re-read Mrs. Who's quotes over and over and over again!  I'm still rolling them around in my mind.  As much as I loved the children of this story, these three women will bring me back to reading this book again.

God:  I never would have thought that a novel of time and space travel would include such profound statements about God. 

Extras:  You know when you finish a book, but you don't want it to end, so you read absolutely everything in the afterward, on the book jacket, even the notes about the font and type style?  Yeah, that was me.  And, lucky for me the 50th Anniversary Edition had LOTS of extras for me to look at and read!

Afterward by L'Engle's Granddaughter:   It seems A WRINKLE IN TIME had a bumpy start.  When John Ferrar received the manuscript, he loved it, but sent it on to get a second opinion, which was returned:  "I think this is the worst book I have ever read, it reminds me of The Wizard of Oz."  (This statement made me smile, probably the way it made John Ferrar smile.)   When the editor send out his pitch letter, requesting quotes, he wrote a letter that summed up exactly how I felt about the book:
"It rather defies classification in that it could be called science fiction, or a fable or even a parable.  It's distinctly odd, extremely well written, and is going to make greater intellectual and emotional demands on 12 to 16 year olds than most formula fiction written for this age group."

I think it's safe to say that it still makes greater demands on 12 to 16 year olds, in the way one hopes literature affects a young person.   

Influence:  I have read a fair amount of middle grade fiction, including several books that must have been influenced by A WRINKLE IN TIME.  While reading this book, I definitely saw signs of Beth Revis's Across The Universe, Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me, and Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs.  No, these books are not retellings of WRINKLE, nor do they directly borrow from it, but I can see how A WRINKLE IN TIME created an echo that can be felt in other children's books to come after it. 

Many, many thanks to Ferrar Straus Giroux Books for publishing this book for 50 years.  I'm honored to be included in the 50th Anniversary Celebration.  It may have been my first time reading A WRINKLE IN TIME, but I have a strong feeling that it will not be my last. 

If you are between the ages of 9 and 99, I highly recommend reading A WRINKLE IN TIME. 

The 50th Anniversary Commemorative edition features:

       Frontispiece photo*†
       Photo scrapbook with approximately 10 photos*†
       Manuscript pages*†
       Letter from 1963 Caldecott winner, Ezra Jack Keats*†
       New introduction by Katherine Paterson, US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature  †
       New afterword by Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter Charlotte Voiklis including six never-before-seen photos †
       Murry-O’Keefe family tree with new artwork †
       Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery acceptance speech

* Unique to this edition                † never previously published


bermudaonion said...

I read this to my son years ago - he loved it but it was just okay for me.

Jamie said...

I'm sure "It was a dark and stormy night' was also used in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But, of course, this was long after A Wrinkle in Time was published.

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