Starting this month, I’m going to give Flashbook Fridays a little shake-up. Instead of solely doing books I read as a kid, I’m also going to review children’s/middle grades/YA books published up to the early 2000’s that I never got to read. This week is the first time I’m doing this, and I’m starting with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. The book has been a staple of 5th-8th grade Language Arts classes for about 5 decades. I remember seeing it all the time in school but the teacher “team” I was a part of in 6th grade didn’t choose to teach the book. While the kids on the other team read A Wrinkle in Time, we read Tuck Everlasting and The Bridge to Terabithia. I remember always noticing the other kids carrying around A Wrinkle in Time and wondering what it was about. For years I’d see the book pop up on TV or the library or in my students’ hands, and it always brought me back to 6th grade when, for whatever reason, I found the book intriguing. So I decided to finally read it. It obviously wasn’t going anywhere. My only expectation for this book is a combination of genres: sci-fi time-travel mystery (?). I guess I’ll find out…
A Wrinkle in Time is definitely a sci-fi time-travel mystery, but add in a generous splash of cross-dimensional interplanetary travel as well. The book follows 13-year-old Meg Murry and 5-year-old Charles Wallace Murry and 14-year-old Calvin O’Keefe as they go on a quest to find the Murry kids’ father. Their father, a brilliant scientist, has been absent for a few years. They’ve been told he’s away at work, but various people seem to think he’s left the family for another woman. Meg and Charles Wallace’s mom assures them and their twin brothers, 10-year-old Dennys and Sandy, that their dad will be home again soon. Meg, now entering her teen years, is more affected by the rumors about her dad now than she’s ever been. She’s also stressed out about her little brother Charles Wallace, who’s rumored to be stupid but is actually an astonishingly bright, intuitive little boy. She feels like she’s not very special, being prone to fighting, and doing poorly in every subject in school besides math.
Meg’s stagnant life is turned for a loop when she meets Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, three beings whom Charles Wallace is acquainted with. The children run into Calvin in the woods while Charles Wallace is bringing Meg to the “haunted house” the women live in so he can introduce them. Calvin says he was drawn towards the house because he “had a feeling” about it and the kids invite him over for dinner. Soon, the women make themselves known to the children and tell them they’re going to go on an important journey to find Mr. Murry. Before Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin have much of a chance to digest this information, the women “wrinkle” them to a faraway planet in a distant galaxy. They find out the women are able to change their forms and an evil entity known as the “Dark Thing” is holding their father hostage, threatening the force of good throughout the universe. After giving a brief lesson about the Dark Thing, tessering (time/space travel), and bestowing each child with a gift to help them on their journey, the three women leave the kids to rescue Mr. Murry from the clutches of darkness as a group. On the way, they’ll each learn a valuable lesson about themselves.
There were things about this book that I liked, such as the female protagonist discovering her inner strengths, the female protagonist being strong in math, the three wise women helping the children come of age, all the references to science, literature, and languages….but something just didn’t click with me. The dialogue was clunky in parts. I wondered if it could be because it was written in the 1960s, but I always find it off-putting when kids in a book call their parents “Mother” and “Father” if the book takes place after 1930. Some of the language was overly formal and awkward. I can’t take a character seriously when they’re all “Now I must go in to Mother” and “I’m very proud of you, my daughter.” No one talks like that and it takes me out of enjoying the story. I felt like their journey was quick. They didn’t have to overcome too many obstacles to finally reach their goal, and that might be because it’s written for middle grades, but it felt too easy. The superb concepts and themes were stifled by the gawky storytelling, and I couldn’t fully enjoy the story.
Rating: 3 out of 5 winged centaurs