A Wrinkle In Time: Once Upon A Time Challenge Book 1

I am certain that if the educators in my Junior High School knew what Madeleine L’Engle was really writing about in A Wrinkle in Time, they never would have put it into our sixth grade hands.

Madeleine wrote the first in her fantasy series for Young Adults in 1959-1960, and withstood over forty rejections before it was finally published in 1962. I remember reading in one of her books that she received so many rejection slips she could have wall papered her office, and perhaps this is one of the reasons that this book has become so meaningful to me. It shows her fierce determination not to give in when she believes in something.

But, there are many other reasons why I love it.

Interspersed throughout its pages are profound quotes from famous writers and philosophers, first in their own language, then translated to English. For example, one of the mystical woman, Mrs. Who said, “Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. French. Pascal. The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing.” (p. 35)

On the following page we find: “It’s getting near time, Charlsie, getting near time. Ab honesto virum bonum nihil deterret. Seneca. Nothing deters a good man from doing what is honorable. And he’s a very good man, Charlsie, darling, but right now he needs our help.” (p. 36)

Or, “Come t’e picciol fallo amoaro morso! Dante. What grievous pain a little fault doth give thee!” (p. 54)

Who writes like that anymore? Is there such substance in children’s books today? In my opinion, not nearly to the extent that Madeleine writes. And this isn’t the “worst” of it.

As I closed the novel, I saw for the first time how many scripture verses are included. Scripture from the Bible. In a public school. Phew, it’s no wonder this novel has had such eyebrows raised:

L’Engle’s liberal Christianity is unsettling to some. This novel is on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 at number 22. Reasons given include the book’s references to witches and crystal balls (although the characters are not in fact witches, and the crystal ball is a science fictional one), the claim that it “challenges religious beliefs”, and the listing of Jesus “with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders.” (Wikipedia)

Last night I was reading paragraphs filled with quotes from the Bible and stopping to look them up in mine because there is no reference to chapter and verse. She just subtly throws them in, like here:

“Mr. Murry bent over her, massaging her cold fingers. She could not see his face. “My daughter, I am not a Mrs. Whatsit, a Mrs. Who, or a Mrs. Which. Yes, Calvin has told me everything he could. I am a human being, and a very fallible one. But I agree with Calvin. We were sent here for something. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (p. 172) Hello! That last sentence is Romans 8:28 straight out of the King James Version.

Or this: “Mrs. Who took the spectacles and hid them somewhere in the folds of her robes. ‘The virtue is gone from them. And what I have to give you this time you must try to understand not word by word, but in a flash, as you understand the tesseract. Listen, Meg. Listen well. The foolishness of God is wiser than men: and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.’ ” This is 1 Corinthians 1: 25-28.

I don’t mean to give a Sunday school lesson here. I’m just amazed that Madeleine L’Engle wove the philosophy of her belief, Christianity, into a fantasy story. One which shows us that ultimately, evil will be defeated because love overcomes hate. And she did it using fantasy as her genre, a fact which really ticks off some Christians I know. But, not me.

23 thoughts on “A Wrinkle In Time: Once Upon A Time Challenge Book 1”

  1. It really is inspiring to think she didn't give up even after 40 rejections. Not many would be that strong.This is a book I've been meaning to read. I keep hearing great things about it.

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  2. Nymeth, I hope you do pick it up. Even though I pointed out all the meaningful Christian things to me, one doesn't have to look at it solely through that perspective. It is full of fantastical creatures and occurances. It's one of my all time favorite, most meaningful, books, and it's amazing how well known it continues to be.

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  3. And the REALLY lovely thing about those biblical quotes? She doesn't hit readers over the head with them. There's not chapter or verse marking in parentheses to give them away! L'Engle just sort of slips the words of Scripture in there and lets them do their subtle but powerful work. Amazing!

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  4. She's so subtle, that it wasn't until I was an adult that I fully realized them for what they were. I, too, admire that about her writing. No one wants to be hit over the head; nor should anyone have that done to thme. Oh, dear, I hope my post wasn't doing any thwacking…

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  5. This is such a magical book. I love it. I loved it as a child, but I too didn't pick up on the biblical references until I read it this time around for the banned books challenge. She's such an amazing writer. I loved Mrs. Who's many languages in the book! It added so much to her character.

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  6. Chris, can't you see why it is on the Banned Books list? Not that it's justified, but it seems to make as many people mad as people who love it.By the way, I really like your new picture.

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  7. Thanks Bellezza! I really dislike (trying to get "hate" out of my vocabulary 🙂 the idea of banning books. It's so unjustified to ban these books. As other commenters and yourself mentioned, she mentions biblical references in a very passive way. She's not shoving it down anyone's throat. And even if she were, people have a right to freedom of both speech and religion. I guess it's a hot button issue for me…

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  8. Great post. I'm looking forward to getting to this book, as I've mentioned before!It will be interesting to see how I respond to the book as a non-Christian. If the references are as subtle and passive as you've mentioned, then I can't see them detracting from the experience. As for banning books – ugh. I can see why certain books would be challenged, but I don't necessarily understand it.

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  9. Love the review. This book has been on my TBR list for quite some time and I was planning to join the Newberry Challenge and add it just so I would get to it faster. It sounds wonderful.

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  10. A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all-time favorite books. I am positively giddy with joy whenever I convince a student to read it, although it is a bit tough for most of my 3rd graders. I cry every time I read it.

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  11. Chris, I think Madeleine L'Engle would be one of the first to advocate freedom of speech and religion. I remember her writing about one of the points the publishers had with Wrinkle was that she didn't have a . after the Mrs. in Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit. She felt they were fantastical creatures, and therefore didn't need a conventional title. But, unfortunately, she lost that battle, and you'll notice the abbreviation is now "correct." It's a shame. And that wasn't even a religious arguement!Quixotic, I'll be very interested in your opinion. As I said, the Biblical references are so subtle you might not even notice them. I certainly didn't in my first few readings, only after I'd become more familiar with the Bible. But, I think this book appeals to everyone, believer or not. Which is part of the beauty. As readers, as citizens of Earth, I think we need to be really scared when someone talks about controlling literature and its publication. That is totally scary to me.Framed, that's true, it would certainly qualify for the Newbery Challenge. Like Quixotic, please tell me what you think when you're done. Of course, I'll be over on your blog(s) checking for a review.Cupcake, I teach third graders too! I've never read this to them, I think it's a little advanced, but maybe not. I cry, too. The image of the family as a whole is so beautiful.

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  12. I need to reread this one. I'm not sure how many times I've read it, but it's a book I love to revisit. Like Chris, I didn't get the religious references as a child; I just enjoyed it for the concept of being swept away to new worlds.

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  13. Bookfool, I didn't get it as a child either. Here I am 46 years old, rereading a treasured piece, going, "OH!"Madeleine has a wonderful way of sweeping us off to new worlds. She has an amazing imagination, which when combined with her intellect, makes me awestruck.

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  14. it is an amazing marvelous wonderful book. I read it aloud to my girls earlier this year (trying to read those quotes aloud is something, let me tell you). It was the first time I had read it in YEARS, and I too was amazed at what she "got away with" in a fantasy book. It's amazing, but I find soulfully true look at the God of the universe. I wept at the end trying to read it out loud when Charles Wallace is redeemed through love alone. What a picture.

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  15. think pink dana, I don't think I'd even attempt some of those phrases in Latin, so I'm impressed with your read aloud capability. I like how you said, "soulfully true look at the God of the universe" and "Charles Wallace is redeemed". You summarized it perfectly in my opinion.

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  16. Wow! GREAT post! Like I said before, I read this in the Sixth Grade, so I know most of the Christianity was probably lost on me. It will be interesting to re-read it again as an adult. And I LOVE the picture of you and L'Engle!

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  17. Stephanie, I read it in 6th grade, too; it seemed to be THE novel study back then. I'm interested in hearing your opinion if you choose to reread it. Thanks for the comment about my picture with my favorite author. (By the way, I'm having the hardest time coming up with my 3! I have two in each category, but maybe I'm overthinking this because I want it to be accurate. But, I promise to post today or tomorrow.)

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  18. I am about to start my first year of teaching and one of the novels available for me to teach is _A Wrinkle in Time_. I had never read this novel before. At first I did not like it, but about the middle I started speed reading. I love this novel. I am a Christian and I think this novel provided me with a way to look at the concept of faith from a completely different angle. My question is: How can I teach this novel when the main source of my excitement and enthusiasim comes from the Christian connections I found in it?

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  19. Anonymous, you ask a very insightful question. It is one I've battled for years through my teaching, and this is how I've approached it: I say to the children, "This is what I believe. It is not something YOU have to believe." When I take them off the hook, and make sure they know that I'm only expressing my opinion/foundation, that is easier. Of course, one must be careful about inflaming parents so take that as a word of caution.I'm not sure what grade you are teaching, but at the very least, A Wrinkle In Time is a wonderful place from which to discuss the power of good vs. evil, and that ultimately, love conquers all. THAT is the point that I would drive home.Does this help? I'd love to talk further with you. Thank you for leaving your thoughts.

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  20. Yes, that helps. Thank you so much for your helpful and timely response. I am probably going to be teaching this book to 7th grade. Have you ever had a student bring up the scripture connections in class?

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  21. Usually, the students at that age are not familiar enough with the Scripture to identify it in Madeleine's passages. However, if they did, there's no disputing that she quoted chapter and verse from The New Testament. Another option, which I used one year, was meeting with anyone who was interested after school. That way, I wasn't using school hours to share my beliefs.

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