As a Christmas present, my kids (instigated by Bothari43) got me a subscription to Storyworth. They send you a writing prompt every week and this week was Your Favorite Book as a Child. At the end of the year, they publish your answers in your memoir. Cool.
This week’s question was a hard one because I’m torn between the original Oz books (all 14 written by L. Frank Baum!) which transported me away from the wet rainforest of western Washington into strange and mind-expanding places. My little Carnegie library in South Bend, Washington had the original 8×10 editions published in 1900 with the awesome John R. Neill art deco illustrations. I read them all when I was ten. I now own the Neill versions (in 5×7 format) republished in 1996.
But the really ground-breaking novel for me when I was young was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. My school library had the paperback, and I read it yearly (if not more). The story of a geeky teenage GIRL encountering supernatural beings on a mission to save her father on the other side of the universe was affirming and relatable for a geeky kid like me. Meg isn’t charming, beautiful, or popular. She’s smart, brave, and independent. Her father, a scientist, disappears while working on something called a tesseract, a complex space/time process which enables instant travel. Some strange and inhuman ladies, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, appear and enable Meg to search for her father across the cosmos. To do it, they must defeat IT, the ultimate evil, which is holding her father captive. With Meg is her five-year-old brother, Charles Wallace, a genius and odd duckling, and Calvin, a popular kid from her school who comes along for the ride.
The novel deals with good versus evil in black and white, but it also gives us the lovely Aunt Beast, a giant spider who nurses the children back to health when they must pass through the evil to get to the other side. Again, our concepts of beautiful equals good and ugly equals bad is thrown out the window. No wonder I love this book.
And what about the mom? She’s also a scientist and has a laboratory in the house! A laboratory. In the house. Would Donna Reed or Leave it to Beaver’s mom have had a laboratory in the house? Mind-blowing.
As an adult, I was surprised to discover that many science fiction fans consider A Wrinkle in Time to be their gateway drug to speculative fiction. Something about the science and the geeky heroine appeals to the outsider in all of us. I have never understood the religious angle attributed to the books (she wrote five in all) because I didn’t see it. The child being punished for not bouncing the ball in time with the other children in his neighborhood was chilling.
Just writing about the book makes me want to read it again. While the sequels are interesting, none impacted me as much as that first book. I liked how she aged the children in the subsequent books. I think the last book is about Meg and Calvin’s daughter and her supernatural adventures.
Without A Wrinkle in Time, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.