A touch of computer keys, a blast of heat, and suddenly the Murry twins, Sandy and Dennys, are gasping in a shimmering desert land.
Madeleine L'Engle is the author of more than forty-five books for all ages, among them the beloved A Wrinkle in Time,
awarded the Newbery Medal; A Ring of Endless Light,
a Newbery Honor Book; A Swiftly Tilting Planet,
winner of the American Book Award; and the Austin family series of which Troubling a Star
is the fifth book. L'Engle was named the 1998 recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards award, honoring her lifetime contribution in writing for teens.
Ms. L'Engle was born in 1918 in New York City, late in her parents' lives,an only child growing up in an adult world. Her father was a journalist who had been a foreign correspondent, and although he suffered from mustard gas poisoning in World War I, his work still took him abroad a great deal. Her mother was a musician; the house was filled with her parents' friends: artists, writers, and musicians. "Their lives were very full and they didn't really have time for a child," she says. "So I turned to writing to amuse myself."
When she was 12, Ms. L'Engle moved with her family to the French Alps in search of purer air for her father's lungs. She was sent to an English boarding school --"dreadful," she says. When she was 14, her family returned to America and she went to boarding school once again, Ashley Hall in Charleston, South Carolina--which she loved. When she was 17, her father died.
Ms. L'Engle spent the next four years at Smith College. After graduating cum laude, she and an assortment of friends moved to an apartment in Greenwich Village. "I still wanted to be a writer; I always wanted to be a writer, but I had to pay the bills, so I went to work in the theater," she says.
Touring as an actress seems to have been a catalyst for her. She wrote her first book, The Small Rain, while touring with Eva Le Gallienne in Uncle Harry. She met Hugh Franklin, to whom she was married until his death in 1986, while they were rehearsing The Cherry Orchard, and they were married on tour during a run of The Joyous Season, starring Ethel Barrymore.
Ms. L'Engle retired from the stage after her marriage, and the Franklins moved to northwest Connecticut and opened a general store. "The surrounding area was real dairy farmland then, and very rural. Some of the children had never seen books when they began their first year of school," she remembers. The Franklins raised three children--Josephine, Maria, and Bion. Ms. L'Engle's first book in the Austin quintet, Meet the Austins, an ALA Notable Children's Book, has strong parallels with her life in the country. But she says, "I identify with Vicky rather than with Mrs. Austin, since I share all of Vicky's insecurities, enthusiasms, and times of sadness and growth."
When, after a decade in Connecticut, the family returned to New York, Ms. L'Engle rejoiced. "In some ways, I was back in the real world." Mr. Franklin resumed acting, and became well known as Dr. Charles Tyler in the television series All My Children. Two-Part Invention is Ms. L'Engle's touching and critically acclaimed story of their long and loving marriage.
The Time quintet--A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time--are among her most famous books, but it took years to get a publisher to accept A Wrinkle in Time. "Every major publisher turned it down. No one knew what to do with it," she says. When Farrar, Straus & Giroux finally accepted the manuscript, she insisted that they publish it as a children's book. It was the beginning of their children's list."
Today, Ms. L'Engle lives in New York City and Connecticut, writing at home and at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where she is variously the librarian and the writer-in-residence. "It depends from day-to-day on what they want to call me. I do keep the library collection--largely theology, philosophy, a lot of good reference books--open on a volunteer basis."
Author Fun Facts
November 29 in New York City
Smith College, The New School, Columbia University
New York City and Connecticut
…hobbies: traveling, reading, playing the piano, and cooking
A Special Message from Madeleine L'Engle
"I wrote my first story when I was 5. It was about a little G-R-U-L, because thats how I spelled “girl” when I was 5. I wrote because I wanted to know what everything was about. My father, before I was born, had been gassed in the first World War, and I wanted to know why there wer wars, why people hurt each other, why we couldnt get along together, and what made people tick. Thats why I started to write stories.
The books I read most as a child were by Lucy Maud Montgomery, whos best known for her Anne of Green Gables stories, but I also liked Emily of New Moon. Emily was an only child, as I was. Emily lived on an island, as did I. Although Manhattan Island and Prince Edward Island are not very much alike, they are still islands. Emilys father was dying of bad lungs, and so was mine. Emily had some dreadful relative, and so did I. She had a hard time in school, and she also understood that theres more to life than just the things that can be explained by encyclopedias and facts. Facts alone are not adequate. I love Emily. I also read E. Nesbit, who was a nineteenth-century writer of fantasies and family stories, and I read fairy tales and the myths of all countries. And anything I could get my hands on.
As an adult, I like to read fiction. I really enjoy good murder mystery writers, usually women, frequently English, because they have a sense of what the human soul is about and why people do dark and terrible things. I also read quite a lot in the area of particle physics and quantum mechanics, because this is theology. This is about the nature of being. This is what life is all about. I try to read as widely as I possibly can.
I wrote A Wrinkle in Time when we were living in a small dairy farm village in New England. I had three small children to raise, and life was not easy. We lost four of our closest friends within two years by death--thats a lot of death statistically. And I really wasnt finding the answers to my big questions in the logical places. So, at the time I discovered the world of particle physics. I discovered Einstein and relativity. I read a book of Einsteins, in which he said that anyone whos not lost in rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe is as good as a burnt-out candle. And I thought, “Oh, Ive found my theologian, what a wonderful thing.” I began to read more in that area. A Wrinkle in Time came out of these questions, and out of my discovery of the post-utopian sciences, which knocked everything we knew about science for a loop.
A Wrinkle in Time was almost never published. You cant name a major publisher who didnt reject it. And there were many reasons. One was that it was supposedly too hard for children. Well, my children were 7, 10, and 12 while I was writing it. Id read to them at night what Id written during the day, and theyd say, “Ooh, mother, go back to the typewriter!” A Wrinkle in Time” had a female protagonist in a science fiction book, and that wasnt done. And it dealt with evil and things that you dont find, or didnt at that time, in childrens books. When wed run through forty-odd publishers, my agent sent it back. We gave up. Then my mother was visiting for Christmas, and I gave her a tea party for some of her old friends. One of them happened to belong to a small writing group run by John Farrar, of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which at that time did not have a juvenile list. She insisted that I meet John any how, and I went down with my battered manuscript. John had read my first novel and liked it, and read this book and loved it. Thats how it happened.
The most asked question that I generally receive is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Thats very easily answered. I tell a story about Johann Sebastian Bach when he was an old man. A student asked him, “Papa Bach, where do you get the ideas for all of these melodies?” And the old man said, “Why, when I get up in the morning, its all I can do not to trip over them.” And thats how ideas are; theyre just everywhere. I think the least asked question is one that I got in Japan. This little girl held up her hand and said, “How tall are you?” In Japan, I am very tall.
I get over one hundred letters a week. There are always letters that stand out. There was one from a 12-year-old girl in North Carolina who wrote me many years ago, saying “Im Jewish and most of my friends are Christian. My Christian friends told me only Christians can be saved. What do you think? Your books have made me trust you.” Well, we corresponded for about twenty years. I suggested that she go back to read some of the great Jewish writers to find out about her own tradition. Another letter asked, “Were studying the crusades in school. Can there be such a thing as a Holy War? Is war ever right?” I mean, kids dont hesitate to ask questions. And its a great honor to have the kids say, “Your books have made me trust you.”
The questions are not always about the books. Theyre sometimes about the deepest issues of life. “Why did my parents put my grandmother in a nursing home?” Thats one that has come up several times. The letters are enlightening, particularly when they are written because the child wants to write them, and not just as a school assignment. Although one of the best batches of letters I ever had was from a high school biology class. The teacher had them read A Wind in the Door, which is about cellular biology, as part of their assignment. I thought, “What an innovative teacher. That was a lot of fun.”
I have advice for people who want to write. I dont care whether theyre 5 or 500. There are three things that are important: First, if you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you. Where you just put down what you think about life, what you think about things, what you think is fair and what you think is unfair. And second, you need to read. You cant be a writer if youre not a reader. Its the great writers who teach us how to write. The third thing is to write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if its for only half an hour write, write, write."
NOTE TO TEACHERS
The Time Quartet
Madeleine L'Engle's time-travel adventure novels call upon readers to think about the battle between good and evil. L'Engle brilliantly deals with this and other themes such as love, courage, and family relationships--themes that are as important today as when Wrinkle was written over three decades ago.
Each of the four Time Quartet books stands alone, so any one would make an excellent choice for reading aloud as well as a class novel study.
Use this guide to initiate discussion in your classroom and to integrate the novels into all areas of the curriculum. We invite you and your students to join Meg, Charles Wallace, and the others on their adventures. Tesser well!
ABOUT THIS BOOK
A Wrinkle in Time
A Newbery Medal Book
An ALA Notable Children's Book
35th Anniversary Editions
Fourteen-year-old Meg Murry, her younger brother, Charles Wallace, and best friend, Calvin O'Keefe, are in search of her scientist father when one stormy night an unearthly visitor takes them on a fantastic voyage to rescue her him. Can they overpower the forces of evil on their journey through space?
An Excerpt from A Wrinkle in Time
"When are we going home?" Meg asked anxiously. "What about Mother? What about the twins? They'll be terribly worried about us. When we didn't come in at bedtime--well, Mother must be frantic by now. She and the twins and Fort will have been looking and looking for us, and or course we aren't there to be found!"
"Now, don't worry, my pet," Mrs. Whatsit said cheerfully. "We took care of that before we left. Your mother has had enough to worry her with you and Charles to cope with, and not knowing about your father, without our adding to her anxieties. We took a time wrinkle as well as a space wrinkle. It's very easy to do if you just know how."
Excerpted from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Copyright © 1962 by Madeleine L'Engle Franklin. Excerpted with permission from Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, Inc. All rights reserved.
A Wind in the Door
An IRA-CBC Children's Choice
Six-year-old Charles Wallace Murry is intellectually gifted, but cannot relate socially to his classmates. His troubles mount when he develops a mysterious illness. Will an adventure into galactic space lead to help for the ill Charles Wallace?
A Swiftly Tilting Planet
An IRA-CBC Children's Choice
The Murry family is warned by the President of the United States that the mad dictator Madog Branzillo is threatening to destroy the world. Can Charles Wallace find a way to save the world from total destruction?
An ALA Book for Young Adults
Practical Sandy and Dennys, the Murry twins, have never experienced time travel. Then one day they find themselves twirling in space. Now the frightened twins must find a way to get themselves home.
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
Madeleine L'Engle is the author of more than forty-five books for all ages, among them the beloved A Wrinkle in Time, awarded the Newbery Medal; A Ring of Endless Light, a Newbery Honor Book; A Swiftly Tilting Planet, winner of the American Book Award; and the Austin family series of which Troubling a Star is the fifth book. L'Engle was named the 1998 recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards award, honoring her lifetime contribution in writing for teens. Madeline L'Engle's Time Quartet 35th Anniversary Commemorative Editions.
xTo commemorate the 35th anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, we at Bantam Doubleday Dell have updated the covers for her Time Quartet, featuring Yearling cover art by Caldecott Honor-winner Peter Sis and Laurel-leaf cover art by renowned sci-fi fantasy illustrator Cliff Nielsen. We've also added an exclusive introduction by the author, and developed this guide--with themes such as love, courage, and family relationships--to help you introduce students to all four classics.x
Read on for a word from the author. . .
Madeleine L'Engle reflects on the 35th anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time . . .
It is an indication that stories have a life of their own, and that they say different things to different people at different times.
In the Time novels, Meg and Polly ask some big questions. Many of us ask these questions as we're growing up, but we tend to let them go because there's so much else to do. I write the books I do because I'm still asking the questions. . . .
It's so exciting that it makes me want to write, to write about what goes on in the great macrocosm outside us, and in the equally great microcosm of the very small. So I send Meg to the outer galaxies and into the microcosm of mitochondria and farandolae, and send Meg and Charles Wallace and Polly into time past and time future. In each book the characters are living into the questions that we all have to live into. Some of these questions don't have finite answers, but the questions themselves are important. Don't stop asking, and don't let anybody tell you the questions aren't worth it. They are. And it's good to share them with people like Meg and Calvin and Charles Wallace and even Zachary.
If anybody invited you to go to a newly discovered galaxy, would you go? I would. It's a wonderful way to meet new and exciting people.
Story always tells us more than the mere words, and that is why we love to write it, and to read it.
Good vs. Evil -- In A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which take Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace to the planet Uriel. There, as they see The Dark Thing, a shadow that is creeping over the cosmos, the children begin to understand the age-old struggle between the forces of good and evil. Have students make two columns on a large sheet of paper; one column should be labeled "good," and the other "evil." Beginning with Love and Hate, one in each column, ask students to list other characteristics of these forces.
In each of the novels, members of the Murry family learn important lessons when they encounter evil forces. Ask students to identify the conflict in each novel and discuss the overall theme of good vs. evil. How are these conflicts resolved? What does each Murry child learn about the power of love?
In A Wind in the Door, Charles Wallace is tormented by his classmates. Meg says, "It's not right in the United States of America that a little kid shouldn't be safe in school" (p. 47). Engage the class in a discussion about the safety issues facing public schools today, for example bullying, weapons, gangs, etc. How are these issues considered "evil" forces?
Courage and Honor -- In A Wrinkle in Time, Meg experiences various types of love throughout her adventure. When she returns to Camazotz for Charles Wallace, she learns that love can enable her to be brave in the face of danger. It provides her with the strength that she needs to overcome evil. Ask students to trace the development of Meg's understanding of the power of love and discuss or write about it in an essay format.
In some ways, Charles Wallace might be considered the most courageous Murry. Encourage students to compare and contrast his courageous journey in A Wind in the Door to his adventures in A Swiftly Tilting Planet.
The Murry twins, Sandy and Dennys, take their first time-travel adventure in Many Waters. As the "practical" members of the family, they are very frightened throughout most of their trip. Ask students to discuss whether it takes courage to be "practical" and "ordinary" in a family like the Murrys. How might being "practical" and "ordinary" cause anyone to be frightened upon entering a new experience? Do the twins become more courageous by the end of the novel?
Dealing with Giftedness -- Charles Wallace realizes that he is different. While he is intellectually gifted, he lacks the physical ability to do things like the other boys in his class. Ask students to brainstorm characteristics of an intellectually gifted child. Make a chart for each of the Murry children and Calvin O'Keefe and cite evidence from the novels that indicates that each child might be considered gifted.
Family and Relationships -- Have students study the Murry-O'Keefe family tree which can be found in the back of any of the 35th anniversary commemorative editions. Ask each student to select one person from the tree and design a page about that person's life and adventures to be included in a Murry-O'Keefe family scrapbook. Compile the pages and bind it.
DISCUSSION AND WRITING
To prepare for a study of L'Engle's time-travel adventure stories, ask students to define fantasy and science fiction. What is the distinction between the two genres? Then ask them to list popular movies and television shows that fit into these genres. Have them discuss which they consider fantasy and which science fiction--or a combination.
Language Arts -- In A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs. Whatsit compares life to a sonnet (p. 179) as a means to explain the concept of freedom within a structure of constraints or rules. Ask for a volunteer to look up a more complete description of this poetic form and explain it to the class. Have each student select a character in the book and write a poem that this character might write to another character in the book.
L'Engle's time-travel adventure novels do not fit neatly into a literary classification such as science fiction or fantasy. Ask students to refer to the questions asked in the pre-reading activity and decide how they would classify these novels.
Invite students to write a diary entry that Sandy or Dennys might have written on the night of their return home in Many Waters.
Mythology -- Ask students to discuss how mythology is appropriate for study in literature and social studies. Have them make a list of the mythological beasts that the Murry children encounter in their travels (for example, unicorns, manticores, dragons). Make a picture dictionary entitled "Mythological Characters in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet."
Social Studies -- In Europe, dragons are portrayed as ferocious beasts. In Asia, they are considered friendly. How are Charles Wallace's dragons portrayed in A Wind in the Door? Ask students to find stories about dragons from different parts of the world and share the various ways the dragons are portrayed. What do these stories reveal about the different cultures of the world?
In A Swiftly Tilting Planet, the dictator Madog Branzillo is threatening to destroy the world. Through Charles Wallace's travels, good overtakes evil and the world is saved. Identify the major issues facing our nation regarding civil defense and nuclear warfare. Why should these issues be discussed in both science and social studies?
Science -- In A Wind in the Door, Dr. Louise, the Murry family physician, remembers when astronauts first went to the moon. Ask students to research John Glenn's first trip into outer space. Then, locate current events about his second trip into space. What do scientists and physicians expect to learn from his return trip?
In Many Waters, Alarid says to Dennys that the air and water on Earth have been "soiled." Encourage students to identify the most serious problems with pollution in their city or town. Ask them to write an editorial for the newspaper suggesting ways to preserve clean air and water.
Math/Science -- The concepts underlying A Wrinkle in Time are based on Einstein's theory of relativity and Planck's quantum theory. Have a math or science teacher explain these theories to the class. Then have students discuss how these theories work in A Wrinkle in Time.
Art -- L'Engle's vivid descriptions make reading her time-travel novels a highly visual experience. Artistically inclined students may want to create a series of paintings or drawings that illustrate creatures and places from these novels.
Unicorns are the subject of many art works from ancient and medieval times. Among the most famous is a tapestry called "The Hunt of the Unicorn." Send students to the media center or library to find out the origin of this tapestry. In what museum would Charles Wallace find this work of art? Ask students to write a letter that Charles Wallace might write to Meg describing his experience of viewing this particular tapestry.
Madeleine L'Engle says, "Responding to fantasy, fairy tale, and myth is responding to one universal language." Discuss how these three genres of literature unite the cultures of the world, creating a universal language.
Use of Language
Often fantasy has a unique language. Ask students to record such unique words as they read L'Engle's time-travel novels. They may wish to make a glossary for each novel.
Awards for A Wrinkle in Time
- A Newbery Medal Book
- An ALA Notable Children's Book
- Awards for A Wind in the Door
- An IRA-CBC Children's Choice
- Awards for A Swiftly Tilting Planet
- An IRA-CBC Children's Choice
- Awards for Many Waters
Reviews for A Wrinkle in Time
"Has the general appearance of being science fiction, but it's not. There is a mystery, mysticism, an indefinable, brooding horror....[This book] is original, different, exciting."
-- Saturday Review
"Fascinating....It makes unusual demands on the imagination and consequently give great rewards."
-- The Horn Book
Reviews for A Wind in the Door
"This is breathtaking entertainment."
--Starred, Library Journal
"Madeleine L'Engle mixes classical theology, contemporary family life, and futuristic science fiction to make a completely convincing tale that should put under its spell both readers familiar with the Murrys and those meeting them for the first time." -- The New York Times Book Review
Reviews for A Swiftly Tilting Planet
"Theme is L'Engle's greatest forte and once again she proves this with a compelling plot, rich in style, that vibrates with provocative thoughts on universal love, individual caring, and the need for joy in living."
"L'Engle's gifts are at their most impressive here."-- Publishers Weekly
Reviews for Many Waters
"A carefully wrought fable . . . this will be enjoyed for its suspense and humor as well as its other levels of meaning."
--Pointer, Kirkus Reviews
OTHER TITLES OF INTEREST
Madeleine L'Engle Grades 5 up (Fantasy, Adventure, Sibling Relationships)
The Giver by Lois Lowry Grades 5 up (Controlled Society, Individuality, Science Fiction)
ABOUT THIS GUIDE
Teaching Ideas prepared by Elizabeth A. Poe, associate professor of English, Radford University, Radford, VA, and by Pat Scales, library media specialist, Greenville Middle School, Greenville, SC.