Book Review of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

What My Kids Read Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle I read A Wrinkle in Time out loud to the kids about two years ago. I enjoyed it, Liam enjoyed it (age 8 at the time), and Paul enjoyed what he understood of it (age 5 at the time). It can stand by itself, but it is the beginning of a series of 5 books, called the Time Quintet. I have read A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door, and both are age appropriate for around 9 and up, but I have heard that at least one of the later books gets a little strange. I will review them in the coming months, so you can decide for your family. There are also four more books that Madeleine L’Engle wrote about the children of Meg, the main character in A Wrinkle in Time. I have not read those.

*Edited to add: It has been pointed out to me that the later books may be a little difficult for 9 year olds to understand, so you may want to wait until your child is a little older before starting the series. For us, it has worked well to read this series out loud to my kids, since I am able to explain concepts as we go.

This book emphasizes that there is strength in being different and that love is the most powerful force.

My Mom-Meter gives this particular book an overall safety rating of 1 (Safe) for ages 9 and up.

Click here to skip to a Plot summary

Click here to skip straight to Potential Discussion Points

Category ratings (click on the category to see specifics):

Alcohol/DrugsSafe

BullyingModerately Safe

Disrespectful AttitudesModerately Safe

Gross BehaviorModerately Safe

LanguageSafe

Magic/SupernaturalCaution

Romance/SexModerately Safe

Scary ThemesModerately Safe

ViolenceSafe

Plot summary of A Wrinkle in Time: ***Contains Spoilers***

I found an excellent plot summary of A Wrinkle in Time at Wikipedia.

Potential Discussion Points for Parents in A Wrinkle in Time:

  • Parents should be aware that Ms. L’Engle was a Christian, but she believed in universal salvation. In A Wrinkle in Time, she mentions both Jesus and Buddha as those who have fought Evil in our world.
  • Meg often complains of how “dumb” she is. Her dad says “Your development has to go at its own pace. It just doesn’t happen to be the usual pace.” Do you ever feel like you are the odd one out with other kids or even with your family? Did it encourage you to see that Meg felt that way too?
  • Calvin does not have a loving home. Calvin tells Meg,”You don’t know how lucky you are to be loved.” You might want to talk to your children about how easy it is to think that everyone has a nice home and a loving family.
  • Meg says “I cry too much…I should be able to control myself… I wish I was a different person… I hate myself.” You might want to talk to your kids about how being unique is a strength, and that emotions are not bad.
  • Mrs. Whatsit says “Only a fool is not afraid.” Do you agree with Mrs. Whatsit? Can you be brave and still be afraid?
  • IT, speaking through Charles Wallace, says, “Perhaps you do not realize that on Camazotz we have conquered all illness, all deformity… We let no one suffer. It is so much kinder to simply annihilate anyone who is ill. Nobody has weeks and weeks of runny noses and sore throats. Rather than endure such discomfort, they are simply put to sleep.” When Calvin points out that is murder, IT replies “Murder is a most primitive word…There is no such thing as murder on Camazotz. IT takes care of all such things.” Depending on maturity level, you could use this to talk about the importance of life.
  • IT says “On Camazotz we are all happy because we are all alike. Differences create problems.” Meg later says “Like and equal are not the same thing at all!” Do you think that differences create problems? Does that make differences bad? What are some differences in people who are good? Does being different from someone make you unequal to them?
  • Meg is angry at her father for leaving Charles Wallace on Camazotz. She thinks “Her father had not saved her. The beasts had.” Was Meg right to be angry? Why did she think that her father, who had just been rescued, would be able to rescue Charles Wallace? Whose fault was it that Charles Wallace was there? Didn’t he decide out of his pride to willingly submit to IT?
  • Meg has trouble explaining light to Aunt Beast, who does not have sight. How would you describe light to Aunt Beast or anyone who had never seen anything?
  • IT has taken control of Charles Wallace, Meg realizes that IT knew all about hate, and it thrived on her hate. She realizes that the only thing that IT does not have is love, and her love overcomes IT. “If she could give love to IT perhaps it would shrivel up and die, for she was sure that IT could not withstand love. But she, in all her weakness and foolishness and baseness and nothingness, was incapable of loving IT. Perhaps it was not too much to ask of her, but she could not do it. But she could love Charles Wallace. She could stand there and she could love Charles Wallace.” You might like to talk to your children about the power of love to drive out hate, just like turning on a light drives out darkness.

Alcohol/Drugs: None

Bullying:

  • One of Meg’s teachers “said crossly, ‘Really, Meg, I don’t understand how a child with parents as brilliant as yours are supposed to be can be such a poor student.”
  • A boy calls Charles Wallace Meg’s “dumb baby brother,” and Meg fights the boy (and beats him). Her brothers tell her to let them do the fighting when it is needed.

Disrespectful Attitudes:

  • A teacher is sarcastic to Meg, and she mutters something about not caring. The teacher sends her to the principal. Meg is silent and stubborn with the principal and then shouts at him when he suggests that her father is not coming home.
  • Meg is angry at her father for leaving Charles Wallace on Camazotz. She “scowled” at her father and told him he was “stupid” if he didn’t think they should call Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit.

Gross Behavior:

  • Meg feels like she is going to “throw up” twice.
  • IT is an oversized, pulsing brain.

Language:

  • This book is full of large words to expand your child’s vocabulary. Words like:
  1. supine
  2. prodigious
  3. gyp
  4. belligerent
  5. tractable
  6. snide
  7. gamboled
  8. corporeal
  9. paltry
  10. propitious
    This is not an exhaustive list of the possible vocabulary words in this book, but words like this are sprinkled throughout the text. Some they can deduce from the context, but some of these are pretty hefty words.
  • “Dumb” is used throughout the book. Charles Wallace is called “dumb” by some bullies, Meg says “dumb like me.”
  • Meg calls herself a “monster,” referring to her looks.
  • Moron is used many times. Meg calls Charles Wallace and herself “morons.”
  • “Dope” is used several times, meant as someone stupid.
  • “Ass” in mentioned in a quote, referring to a donkey. “An old ass knows more than a young colt.”
  • Mrs. Whatsit says “Only a fool is not afraid.”
  • Calvin says “Nuts!”
  • “Shut up” is said once.
  • IT calls Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit “witches.”
  • Meg calls the hypnotized Charles Wallace a “demon.”
  • Meg says she does not want to be hypnotized by IT and be a “zombie.”
  • “Stupid” is used several times.

Magic/Supernatural:

  • The term “wraithlike” is mentioned once.
  • Meg calls herself a “monster.”
  • Charles Wallace is psychic. He can somehow read people’s thoughts if he tries.
  • Calvin says that he came to a house under a “compulsion.”
  • Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which all keep haunted house things around to scare off the curious. They imitate witches with a black cauldron, and steal sheets to look like ghosts.
  • The word “centaur” is used once.
  • There is a character called the Happy Medium. She looks into a crystal ball and can see other places. She shows the crystal ball to the children, and they see several things.
  • The “Dark Thing” is taking over planets. It is called “Evil” and the “Powers of Darkness.”
  • Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit were once stars. Mrs. Whatsit gave up her life as a star to fight the darkness.
  • Ambrosia is mentioned. (food of the gods)
  • The children are encouraged to kiss the Medium “for good luck.”
  • The children are given a “talisman” to help them on the dark planet.
  • Hypnotize is mentioned. There is a man who IT uses to speak through. He has red eyes, and the children know that if they look into his eyes, they will be hypnotized. Later, Charles Wallace is “hypnotized” by IT, and talks and act in a strange way.
  • Twice someone says this “isn’t a fairy tale.”

Romance/Sex:

  • There are rumors that Meg’s father left his family to live with another woman. (Those rumors are not true.)
  • A romance between Meg and Calvin grows subtly throughout the story.
  • Calvin tells Meg the night he meets her “Don’t you know you’re the nicest thing that’s happened to me in a long time?”
  • Calvin tells Meg she has “dreamboat eyes” and not to let other boys see her without her glasses. He doesn’t want anyone to see what “gorgeous eyes” she has. Meg blushes.
  • Calvin and Meg hold hands for comfort several times.
  • While riding, Calvin holds onto Meg around her waist.
  • The Medium tells the children to kiss her for good luck.
    The Medium looked smilingly at Calvin, and winked. “I want the young man to kiss me too. I always did love red hair. And it’ll give you good luck, Laddie-me-love.”
    Calvin bent down. blushing, and awkwardly kissed her cheek.
    The Medium tweaked his nose. “You’ve got a lot to learn, my boy.”
  • Calvin kisses Meg before she goes back alone to Camazotz to rescue Charles Wallace.
    Calvin came to her and took her hand, then drew her roughly to him and kissed her. He didn’t say anything, and he turned away before he had a chance to see the surprised happiness that brightened Meg’s eyes.

Scary Themes:

  • The book opens on a “dark and stormy night” and Meg remembers that someone had said a tramp had stolen 12 bed sheets nearby. The dog barks, and she is afraid. (It turns out to not be a tramp, but the start of the adventure.)
  • The Dark Thing, which is Evil, is taking over planets. The children have to go to a “dark” planet to rescue Meg’s father.
  • IT speaks directly to your mind. It tries to take over and use everyone’s brains for power.
  • There is a man controlled by IT who has red eyes that will hypnotize you.
  • Charles Wallace is controlled by IT. His eyes look vacant, his jaw is slack, and IT speaks through him, saying mean things.

Violence:

  • Meg gets into a fight on her way home from school because a boy calls Charles Wallace “dumb.”
  • There is some kicking and Charles Wallace (under the influence of IT) punches Meg in the stomach.

From a ten-year-old’s perspective: “I enjoyed this book. I think both boys and girls would like it. If you like science fiction and adventure, you will like this book.”

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A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet)
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Comments

  1. I’ve read the whole quintet, and although time travel isn’t really my “thing,” I’d say all five of the books are, in your words, “a little strange,” but in a good way, and I did like them all very much. (speaking as a retired elementary teacher.) My personal favorite is Many Waters, the fourth one, in which the older brothers Sandy and Dennys find themselves in the time of Noah. The older boys are certainly more “normal” than Meg and Charles Wallace, so I liked finding them in the sort of adventure that usually finds their younger brother and sister. The latter books are a bit more esoteric than the original and I think age nine might be a stretch, though there certainly are sharp nine-year olds who could easily comprehend the stories.

  2. Steve,
    I’m looking forward to reading Many Waters – glad to hear you like it. You do have a good point: I can see how the books might be too much for most 9 year olds. Even the second book, A Wind in the Door, was a bit more than my 9 year old could handle without me read out loud. I’ll adjust my review to reflect that. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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