Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Author Spotlight: Madeleine L’Engle

Although she wrote numerous books ranging from picture books to middle reads and YA to reflective nonfiction to poetry, Madeleine L’Engle is best remembered for changing children’s literature with The Wrinkle in Time. Awarded the Newberry Medal in 1963, the book remains popular and turned 50 in 2013, and became a Disney released movie in 2018. The Wrinkle in Time is one of the titles found on banned novels list, being ironically praised and criticized for its spiritual themes and approach.

A newly released book on Madeleine L’Engle, A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual of Madeleine L’Engle, Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Sarah Arthur is not so much a biography as it is an exploration of Madeleine’s spiritual beliefs and how they were intertwined into her writing.

Like C.S. Lewis, L’Engle infused her stories with spiritual metaphors and even direct references to God. However, unlike Lewis, L’Engle often found herself criticized for what some deemed a New Age approach to story telling, that her spiritual beliefs were too bound in a universalism that some thought misleading or confusing for her young reader audience.

Praised or censured, Madeleine L’Engle’s impact is significant, especially A Wrinkle in Time.

I was in fifth grade when I read about Meg and Charles Wallace and tesseracts. The book opened my reader’s eyes wide open. Time travel, intergalactic worlds, good versus evil, scientific concepts, interpersonal family dynamics, and so much more. The landscape of reading changed for me. I had that Dorothy moment of stepping from the barren black and white lands of Kansas to the Technicolor world of Oz. Reading for me did begin with that over the rainbow moment and L’Engle provided a colorful palette of possibilities.

I decided to reread A Wrinkle in Time as part of my Classic Club challenge. Reading it almost fifty years later I marveled how well the story kept my interest, and how much I anticipated certain plot points: Charles Wallace and his cocoa session with Meg in the kitchen, syncopated ball bouncing, Aunt Beast, the complicated plot, challenging vocabulary, along with its scientific concepts–this was way beyond the Homer Price and Henry Huggins fare on the library shelves. I don’t know how well I comprehended the entire story of how a girl could take on space and time and fight evil, but I do know Meg was the first of many underdog protagonists that would be added to my reading dance card.

I’m just discovering that The Wrinkle in Time is one of five books in the series and I am checking out each title and revisiting with Meg and Charles Wallace.

What are your impressions of A Wrinkle in Time?

The cover as I remember it.

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7 thoughts on “Author Spotlight: Madeleine L’Engle

  1. It’s been years since I red “A Wrinkle…” but I remember thinking “It was okay.” And Charles’s odd speech patterns irritated me, often pulling me out of the story.

    Maybe I need to give it a reread, eh?

  2. Sadly I didn’t read it as a child and I find it very hard to get my mind into the right place to read children’s literature now unless it’s a book I fell in love with back then, like Anne of Green Gables or The Wind in the Willows. I’m glad your re-read worked out well – it’s always a bit scary re-visiting a book loved long ago!

    • Interestingly, Wrinkle in Time doesn’t read like the usual children’s lit—that’s what is so fascinating about her writing, in that it isn’t writing down or up; it’s simply very good writing.

  3. I need to reread this one, too. Going back to YA books from my childhood is so often a delight!

  4. I get through her Wrinkle in Time books and wonder what she was smoking when she wrote them, though not necessarily in a bad way. She twists and pulls and prods the reader’s mind, as you said, with a universe-sized perspective disguised within a story.

    • I thought Wrinkle in Time was eye-opening in terms of introducing science concepts to young readers, but Wind at the Door was a muddle of ideas. I am curious about how the other books in the series turn out.

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