I’ll never forget where I first met Meg Murry: Mrs. Beville’s 5th-grade language arts class, Aurora, Colorado, 1978. Mrs. B. always picked the best books for her classroom read-alouds: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The Cricket in Times Square. How to Eat Fried Worms.
And Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
I don’t recall whether Wrinkle was my first science-fiction novel. My dad was (is) a huge sci-fi fan, and he raised me up properly on Heinlein and McCaffrey. But those authors are firmly rooted in my middle-school and high-school memories. I think it is very possible that A Wrinkle in Time was my gateway into the soaring, wide-ranging world of science fiction.
In any event, that book grabbed me instantly, for all the reasons it has grabbed millions of readers around the world. I’d never met a hero like Meg. Awkward, kind of grumpy, often in trouble at school–this was no Flossie Bobbsey. This heroine had flaws. She wasn’t entirely likeable. But Calvin O’Keefe was, and he saw something promising in Meg. For me, this was a revelatory experience: here was a book character you couldn’t figure out right off the bat. Meg was my first glimmer of understanding that first impressions aren’t always trustworthy. Sometimes you have to take a journey with a person in order to get to know her.
And oh, what a journey it was! Traveling to other planets! Tessering–what a marvel! Can’t you just picture that drawing of the string with the ant crawling on it? It’s seared on your brain, right? And all those Camazotz kids bouncing their balls in perfect unison! Remember how your heart pounded when that one boy lost control of his ball and it went rolling into the street, and his mother totally panicked?
I swear, my heart is beating faster right now, just thinking about it. Because this is a book that still tessers me to another world. I couldn’t wait to share it with my own kids–although, as it happens, my husband was the one who read it to them first. I watched with glee as my oldest daughter tore through the rest of the series on her own. I had the Austin books ready and waiting when she finished A Swiftly Tilting Planet: my old, battered copies that I’d hauled from state to state during the many long-distance moves of my adult life–just like Miranda, the young heroine of Rebecca Stead’s 2010 Newbery Medal-winning When You Reach Me, carried her copy of Wrinkle everywhere she went. It gets under your skin that way. A Ring of Endless Light is probably my favorite L’Engle, but Wrinkle is the one I feel most tender about.
In honor of its fiftieth year in print, FSG has reissued A Wrinkle in Time in a special commemorative edition with some extra goodies tucked in the back: photos of Mrs. L’Engle, her Newbery Medal acceptance speech, a Murry-O’Keefe family tree, a letter to Madeleine from Ezra Jack Keats, and an afterword by Madeleine’s granddaughter, Charlotte Voiklis. And especially exciting: original manuscript pages marked up with penciled notes and edits. Honestly, I could pore over this kind of thing all day, comparing her first draft to the final. I mean, check this out: at the top of one page, a handwritten note that says: “If necessary substitute sceortweg for tesseract and scegging [for] tessering.” !! Can you imagine? Meg and Calvin might have scegged?? Thank goodness tesser made it through!
(I think my heart just tessered to my throat and back.)
The new edition also includes a foreword by the great Katherine Paterson. These essays, the Paterson and the Voiklis, are treasures for a L’Engle-phile like me. Charlotte’s essay opens with the much-repeated tale–so comforting to novelists everywhere–of Wrinkle‘s numerous rejections before it finally found a home at FSG. It was an unusual book, genre-busting, and there were a lot of publishers who simply didn’t know what to do with it. Three cheers for Mr. John Farrar, who recognized its brilliance and took a chance on it. (And then it won the Newbery! Boo-yah!) It’s one of the books that helped write the story of me–and now, my kids.
Lucky for me, I still have three little ones in line to tesser with in the years ahead. Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, Meg: don’t leave without us.
Visit the Wrinkle in Time 50th Anniversary Facebook page here.
For a list of more entries in the 50 Years, 50 Days, 50 Blogs Celebration, click here.
Bonus GeekMom Wrinkle in Time love in this post.
Review copy provided by publisher. Childhood copy provided by mother.
11 thoughts on “A Wrinkle in Time 50th Anniversary Blog Tour: Tesser With Me”
You captured everything I love about the book, too–including the excitement of sharing it with the kids 🙂
I loved these books too….then as an adult I tried to listen to them on CD. The reader was SO bad I had to stop listening because it was changing my opinion of the books!!!! I can’t wait to go back and read them (myself!) again.
For some reason this line– “Review copy provided by publisher. Childhood copy provided by mother” –made me all gushy and emotional.
Coincidentally I just came from getting my plans to host a Wrinkle In Time 50th Birthday Party approved by my library director. My idea is “This is Miss Amy’s Favorite Book Ever. Favorite Books Ever are such awesome things that we need to celebrate them. So come to my favorite book’s Birthday Party whether you’ve read it or not!” Then I will suck them in and they will all read it anyway. There will be food– hot cocoa, tuna sandwiches, a Jell-o mold in the shape of IT– and games like Synchronized Ball-Bouncing and Jump-rope and a Happy Medium Fortune Telling Station; and I already have my Mrs Whatsit costume planned out. IT WILL BE AWESOME.
I plan to celebrate all year on my blog. I have a whole series of posts I’m going to do, and just posted the latest one, about Meg as Hero, last night. Here’s a link to all of the series: http://rockinlibrarian.livejournal.com/tag/year%20of%20the%20tesseract
Now I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled comments-from-people-who-are-less-geeky-about-this-book-than-I… (not that being geeky is a BAD thing at this site, is it?)
I’m a L’Engle-phile too! Did not realize it was the 50th anniversary. Thanks for this post.
This was the first piece of Sci-Fi I ever read, and it was given to me by my mom. I loved it, and have re-read it again and again. I discovered years later that she had to read it for some sort of childhood education class in University, and that she really hated the book! *LOL*
Wrinkle was the fist sci-fi I ever read. Dad gave it to me on my 8th birthday — I remember the exact moment of unwrapping it. He read part of it to me (I remember him explaining what it meant when Mrs. Whatsit “sprained her dignity”), but I think I finished it myself because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened!
Those ball-bouncing kids — SO CREEPY!
Well, I’ll have to put the commemorative issue on my wishlist!
I was either nine or ten when I encountered AWIT — our schoolrooms encompassed multiple ages, and those were the ages I was when that particular techer read it to us. Over the years I drank her books like whole milk: one of my most treasured memories was meeting her at a book signing when I was in my teens and at a particularly low place: she signed every book in my enormous stack and graciously chattered until I forced myself to leave.
I don’t know if I ever read this book, but A Swiftly Tilting Planet was my first book in this series. I still remember the day I won it in a Grade 6 book report contest. Even as an adult the story never fails to draw me in. I will have to read this book now.
I have always been a L’Engle fan as well. All of her books, but the Wrinkle in Time and The Austins were my favourites. I think that I have reread A Ring of Endless Light more times than any other book. Thanks for letting me know about the Anniversary.
What a book!
My favorite image was Meg’s mom simmering stew alongside her laboratory experiments while the wind howled outside. She was a geek mom role model!
We’ve loved reading all these comments – and wanted you to know that just in time for the 50th anniversary, the MainStreet Theatre Company in Rancho Cucamonga will be producing a theatrical version in May! We’re so thrilled to be part of the celebration.
For more info go to http://www.lewisfamilyplayhouse.com – or facebook.com/MainStreetTheatreCompany.
Hope to see you all there!
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