Meg Murry can’t do anything right. She’s always getting in fights at school—people keep making snide remarks about her father’s disappearance—and no matter what she says or does, things are always her fault. Add to that glasses, braces, and frizzy hair, and you have what she considers a walking disaster cocktail. Her one solace in life is her baby brother, Charles Wallace, who always seems to Know just what to do or say to make her feel better—that is, until the violently stormy night when he brings an oddly-dressed, er, woman(?) named Mrs. Whatsit into their kitchen.
When Dr. Murry offers the strange, little person a sandwich, she gets a response that leaves her shaken, Meg full of questions, and Charles Wallace angry. The next day, Meg and Charles Wallace set out to find Mrs. Whatsit and get some answers. Instead, they find Calvin O’Keefe, the school jock, who decides to help them out. And thus begins an extraordinary quest by three children and three other-worldly beings to save the Murrys’ father—and maybe even the world—from IT and the forces of Evil.
Sounds awesome, right? It turns out Madeline L’Engle had a great deal of difficulty getting this book published back in the early 1960s, receiving at least 26 rejection letters (including, it would seem one from her agent), before she finally found a publisher willing to take a risk on her little novel. Once it went to print, however, “A Wrinkle in Time” won the John Newbery Medal, the Sequoyah Book Award and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and became an instant classic, remaining continuously in print and capturing the minds and hearts of readers of all ages to this day.
Part of the reason it took so long to find a home was that the protagonist is a teenage girl, an unheard-of concept in the 1960s, a time before YA was a recognized genre. Deeper than that, though, was the fact that the book covers some complicated and (at the time) leading-edge scientific concepts, and explains them in language that children can comprehend. Publishers didn’t think kids would be interested. And how wrong they were!
L’Engle explores everything from the grieving process to the difficulties of growing up, from how social conformity can damage the psyche to the beginnings of what we now know as wormhole science, and she does it all with a sense of adventure and a sensitivity to the human experience, in a manner easily accessible to all readers.
I give “A Wrinkle in Time” 5 Whatzits for excellent story-telling, a gripping adventure, and for finally finding a Happy Medium. I’m sure Mrs. Whatsit would be proud.
5 out of 5 Whatzits