Monday, April 18, 2011

A Wrinkle in Time (Book)

Author: Madeleine L’Engle. Release date: 1962. Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN: 9780312367541.

Plot summary: Meg Murry has always been different. She’s very smart, but just doesn’t seem to fit in at school. To make matters worse, she has to deal with her younger brothers, ten-year-old twins and five-year-old, Charles Wallace, who is a genius. Both of her parents are scientists, but her father mysteriously vanished years before. One stormy evening, a strange old woman, Mrs. Whatsit, visits the Murry house and mentions something called a tesseract to Meg’s mother. Meg discovers that this is a scientific term that her father was researching. Curious to learn more, Meg, Charles Wallace and Meg’s friend, Calvin O’Keefe, visit a mysterious house that Charles seems to know is the home of Mrs. Whatsit. There they meet Mrs. Who, another strange woman, who tells Meg that she will help her find her missing father by transporting her to his location using a  tesseract. It appears that a tesseract is a fold, or wrinkle, in the fabric of time and space, and allows for quick transport between different worlds. Meg’s father was investigating this concept, and became trapped on a planet called Camazotz, which is under the control of a mysterious and evil force known as the Black Thing. Can Meg save her father and return to Earth?
Review: This creative and entertaining cerebral adventure from L’Engle has long been considered a classic work of science-fiction for young readers. It has so successfully stood the test of time for many reasons: the characters are interesting and engaging, the concept is utterly unique, it combines a lot of intriguing elements (time travel, space travel, angelic entities, evil), and adventure. The plot is not simple, and does require some commitment on the part of the reader to work through (a lot of unfamiliar terms are used, and the storyline takes many twists and turns that may require re-reading.) The payoff for following the plot, however, is an outstanding novel that tweens are sure to remember long after finishing the book. As the primary protagonist, Meg is quite likable. Young readers who also feel like they simply don’t fit in will identify with what she goes through. Meg is also intelligent and brave, however, which many readers, especially tween girls, will admire. Her five-year-old brother, Charles Wallace, is also interesting. He clearly thinks well beyond his years and is almost prophetic at times. The typical younger brother in novels for tweens is brash, annoying, immature or all three, so Charles Wallace makes for a nice change. Overall, this is an excellent book for young readers who are interested in more complex stories.  

Genre: Science-fiction
Reading level: Grades 5-9

Similar titles: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, rest of time quintet series by Madeleine L’Engle.
Personal thoughts: I’ve read this title several times over the years, and every time I discover something new. L’Engle is a fantastic writer and creates stories with a lot of depth and complexity that still manage to be appropriate for younger audiences. This and the rest of the series are bound to be favorites for young science-fiction fans, I know it was for me!

Themes: Time/space travel, science, evil, family relationships, not fitting in.
Awards/Reviews: Newbery Medal Winner1963, Sequoyah Book Award Winner1965, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award Winner 1965.

Series Information: First book in time quintet series by Madeleine L’Engle, titles: A Wrinkle in Time (1962), A Wind in the Door (1973), A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978), Many Waters (1986), An Acceptable Time (1989).

Character information:
Meg Murry – Thirteen-years old and the oldest of her siblings, she feels like she doesn’t fit in, despite being very intelligent. She loves her little brother, Charles Wallace, and her friend, Calvin.

Charles Wallace Murry – Five-years-old, and the youngest sibling in the Murry family. He is a genius who has demonstrated some abilities in telepathy.
Calvin O’Keefe – Meg’s friend who is only fourteen-years-old but is a junior in high school. Like Charles Wallace, he is incredibly intelligent and also has some abilities in telepathy. His family is very dysfunctional, so he spends a lot of time with the Murrys.

Mrs. Whatsit – A strange elderly woman who visits the Murry’s house and tells them about the tesseract. She later is revealed to be an immortal creature who is over 2 billion years old.

Mrs. Who – Another elderly woman who is later revealed to be an immortal creature.
Mrs. Which – The third of the immortal women who has the most knowledge of the tesseract.

Annotation: Thirteen-year-old Meg has never fit, despite being very intelligent and having a loving family. Soon she discovers the secret behind her scientist father’s mysterious disappearance and goes on an adventure through time and space to rescue him.

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