Everybody has “special book memories”–memories of books that were really, really special to you. Books that rocked your world. Books that might have made you cry. Books that made stifling giggles under the covers at night really tricky. Or even books that made you look at the world with new eyes. And while you tend to collect a lot of special book memories, that first special book is really precious because it was the first and because it opened your eyes to just how amazing books and reading could be. And while I remember loving books like Robert Newton Peck’s Soup and Me series (that would fall into the “laughing under covers” category for me), the first book that was truly special to me–that really rocked my world–was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
I was in middle school when I first picked up A Wrinkle in Time. At the time, I was pretty fond of unicorns, and the fact that the cover showcased an image of a centaur with children on its back and a rainbow in the sky was pretty appealing (though at the time I just thought it was a cool horse-man creature). From the opening chapter, I was hooked. And I was more than a little blown away. Why? Because Meg, our heroine, was a regular, not-so-cool girl like me. By her own estimation, she looked a little funny. She was not popular and she struggled at school academically (even though she was plenty smart at home). And she had some family issues due to the fact that her father was missing (he just up and disappeared one day). She was scared of lots of things, she had a short temper, and she fussed a lot.
But guess what? That was okay. She had a family that loved her unconditionally, in particular her younger, genius-smart brother Charles Wallace (who to this day I ADORE). And in a twist of fate, she finds herself hanging out with one of the “cooler” kids from school, Calvin (who I also ADORE … he could be considered my first lit boy crush, I think), and Calvin also likes Meg for who she is. And when lives are on the line, and the entire earth is in danger, it’s Meg’s faults that actually become strengths–it’s her faults that save everyone she cares about. So. Being perfect and beautiful like everyone else? Not so important. Being able to risk everything to protect the people you love? Being able to use your faults and differences to an advantage? Now THAT is something very special and timelessly cool.
Today, we celebrate heroines like Katniss from The Hunger Games, Beatrice in Divergent, and Katsa in Graceling (just to name a few), but Meg appeared about 50 years before and helped to set the standard for misunderstood young women who may not fit conventional heroine standards of “pretty” and “perfect,” but who have a strength and courage that makes for its own special and more perfect beauty.
This year actually marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of A Wrinkle In Time, and I’m just sad that Madeleine L’Engle isn’t alive to see it (she passed away in 2007). But that doesn’t stop the public from gushing over her beloved book. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the book, I decided to rediscover it in a new way: with an audio book performance by Barbara Caruso (very fun, especially since I have just recently discovered a love of audio books on my long drives into work). And for those of you who want some really cool additional information, check out Madeleine L’Engle’s web site. On the site, you’ll find everything from a handy bio about Madeleine’s life (did you know she worked in the theater?), to her 1963 Newbery Award acceptance speech for A Wrinkle in Time (which, incidentally, she had quite the trouble getting published … isn’t that always the way with the great ones?) AS WELL AS her 1998 acceptance speech for receiving the American Library Association’s Margaret Edwards Award (given for lifetime achievement for writing in the field of young adult literature). But I’ll let you explore on your own (it’s amazing how many different covers there have been to A Wrinkle in Time! … which you can see on the web site as well). And you might even want to take a peek at the Facebook page :) Oh! And did you know that there is apparently a graphic novel version of the book coming out in 2012! *(Yes, I am now officially gushing….)
I hope you choose to re-discover this fantastic sci-fi/fantasy book, and to encourage others to discover it for the first time. And joy of joys, in an age of “everything must be part of a series,” this is the first book in a quintet! It doesn’t get any better than that At the start of this post, I shared a book trailer that was hosted on Madeleine L’Engle’s own site in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the book. I’d like to close this post by sharing a second, really lovely trailer I found on youtube created by ‘truthbeautybombs.’ Enjoy!
–Nicole Dolat, currently reading Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty