A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
MARCH 12:

  • Happy birthday Arlene Alda (Did You Say Pears?), Daniel Cohen (Real Ghosts), Naomi Shihab Nye (19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East), Carl Hiaasen (Hoot), and Diane Gonzales Bertrand (The Party for Papá Luis).
  • It’s the birth date of Virginia Hamilton (1936–2002), M. C. Higgins, the Great.
  • In 1894 Coca-Cola is sold in bottles for the first time in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Read My Vicksburg by Ann Rinaldi, and The Drummer Boy of Vicksburg by G. Clifton Wisler.
  • Moscow becomes new capital of Russia in 1918. Prior to that St. Petersburg was the capital city for 215 years. Read Eloise in Moscow by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hilary Knight, and Max Moves to Moscow by Winifred Riser.
  • Happy birthday to the Girl Scouts, first named Girl Guides in 1912. Read Daisy and the Girl Scouts: The Story of Juliette Gordon Low by Fern Brown, illustrated by Marie DeJohn.

On March 12, 1963, the New York Times wrote “A housewife and an artist today won the nation’s top awards for the most distinguished children’s book published in 1962.” This statement doesn’t even hint at the truth—that the most courageous committee in the history of the Newbery and Caldecott Awards had just announced its results. In the 1960s a single committee chose both prestigious awards.

The housewife of the headlines, Madeleine L’Engle, married to television actor Hugh Franklin, had won the award for a book rejected by 26–40 publishers, the number changing depending on who was telling the story. She had, in fact, abandoned the idea of ever getting this saga, which had occurred to her while she was traveling across the Painted Desert, into print. Many claim credit for finally putting the manuscript into the hands of John Farrar—but there is no question that he and editor Hal Vursell decided to take a chance on a book that had no precedent. Part fantasy and part science fiction, A Wrinkle in Time features a girl as the protagonist in an era when science fiction clearly belonged to male heroes. Traveling through time and space Meg Murray and her precocious little brother Charles Wallace—along with Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which—are trying to save their father from a giant pulsing brain, the embodiment of evil.

Reviewers seemed a bit skeptical about this unusual story. However, Ruth Hill Viguers, the editor of The Horn Book Magazine wrote that although the book “will no doubt have many critics, I found it fascinating….It makes unusual demands on the imagination and consequently gives great rewards.” A book with a very small first printing, probably 1,500 copies, A Wrinkle in Time did not get placed in the hands of many children until it won the Newbery Award.

Along with Alice of Alice in Wonderland, Jo March of Little Women, and Anne of Anne of Green Gables, Meg has taken her place as one of the most loved and remembered female characters created in children’s books. Madeleine L’Engle put a good deal of herself into Meg, “Of course I’m Meg,” she once admitted. Her husband thought his wife understood Meg quite well but noted that Madeleine had “never explored outer space”—although he wouldn’t put it past her. Now after several decades, the book still draws young readers in and keeps them awake at night to finish the story.

In 1963 the Newbery-Caldecott committee definitely picked an unusual and challenging novel, a story that would both stand the test of time and become one of our greatest classics. On March 15, we will talk about the Caldecott-winning “artist” mentioned in that New York Times notice.

Here’s a passage from A Wrinkle in Time:

In the kitchen a light was already on, and Charles Walace was sitting at the table drinking milk and eating bread and jam. He looked very small and vulnerable sitting there alone in the big old-fashioned kitchen, a blond little boy in faded blue Dr. Dentons, his feet swinging a good six inches above the floor.

“Hi,” he said cheerfully. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

From under the table where he was lying at Charles Wallace’s feet, hoping for a crumb or two, Fortinbras raised his slender dark head in greeting to Meg and his tail thumped against the floor. Fortinbras had arrived on their doorstep, a half-grown puppy, scrawny and abandoned, one winter night. He was, Meg’s father had decided, part Llewellyn setter and part greyhound, and he had a slender, dark beauty that was all his own.

“Why didn’t you come up to the attic?” Meg asked her brother, speaking as though he were at least her own age. “I’ve been scared stiff.”

“Too windy up in that attic of yours,” the little boy said. “I knew you’d be down. I put some milk on the stove for you. It ought to be hot by now.”

How did Charles Wallace always know about her? How could he always tell? He never knew – or seemed to care – what Dennys or Sandy were thinking. It was his mother’s mind, and Meg’s, that he probed with a frightening accuracy.

 

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Originally posted March 12, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, Award Winning, Newbery, Other Worlds, Science
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for A Wrinkle in Time
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COMMENTS

  1. Sydnee says:

    I’m glad to see this on here, really no childhood is complete without it!

  2. Chelsey says:

    an amazing book, which I already knew, but the history makes it even more amazing.

  3. Christina says:

    My daughter Madelyn is named after Madeleine L’Engle!

  4. I KNEW there was something significant about today’s date! This is the most important book of my life. Actually, if anybody knows its actual release date, I am very curious: I am going to celebrate its 50th birthday next year (I have grand plans!), and although I suppose I COULD celebrate it all year, having an actual birthday to celebrate would be handy.

  5. Jean says:

    THE book of my childhood that made me a reader.

  6. LĂ©na Roy says:

    Thank you for this great post! M’LE will be inducted into the NYState Hall of Fame on Friday, April 1st. More to celebrate!

  7. I still remember ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ as pure magic. I don’t remember how old I was the first time I read it, but it is one of very few books that opened my heart and mind to the possiblities of life as well as creating life on a page. Pure Magic.

  8. Sarah von Moritz says:

    One thing I love about A Wrinkle in Time is that Madeleine L’Engle didn’t use conventional punctuation when it came to the Mrs’–instead of Mrs., it is Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which. But most references I’ve seen to the book don’t follow that style. I wonder why that is?

  9. Tess W. says:

    I am SO glad this is the book my project is on!! Madeleine L’Engle is an extraordinary, fascinating woman and I love how she is reflected (or her feelings about herself) in the character Meg. I love that many of her characters are in fact based on people in her life – somehow, they all feel (and felt when I was younger) like real people!

  10. Andrena says:

    “Believing takes practice.” — Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time)
    The first time I heard about L’Engle was from a teacher who loved reading A Wrinkle in Time to her 4th grade class. L’Engle is someone I only became aware of as an adult, and I was mostly fascinated by her reflections about life. I loved her reflections about life.

  11. Anita says:

    Thanks everyone for these great comments. I’m so happy to hear about the New York State Hall of Fame Award from Lena, L’Engle’s granddaughter! We can never give L’Engle enough awards for her work.
    Sarah as you note, L’Engle refused to use periods after her characters names and drove at least one copyeditor crazy because of this. Most others place the periods there, probably to avoid driving their own editors and copyeditors nuts!

  12. Teri-K says:

    I’m coming to this late, but can’t resist adding my praise about this book. It was one of the few Sci-Fi books I loved as a child, and I’ve found it appeals to a lot of different people.
    I recently listened to it on CD while making a two day drive. The time passed very quickly — I actually listened to it through twice. It’s narrated by the author, and her gruff, throaty voice added to my enjoyment, as did the comments she made at the beginning about her difficulty getting it published.

  13. Vicky says:

    This book gives me goosebumps no matter how often I read it. Its mishmash of science, faith and the coming of age story still hits all the right notes. Have you seen the delightful “Ninety-Second Newbery” version of the book?

  14. Rodney D says:

    My relationship to this book has changed so much over time. I was entranced by it when it was read to me in second grade, and when I read it later on, I began looking past the fantastical elements of it and was amazed at how L’Engle was able to depict social mores and interactions at the time. The twins comments to Meg and their mother anger me, but then I realize that L’Engle accurately captured the way in which women were treated and spoken to and I respected the book even more for showing me that.

  15. PragmaticMom says:

    I loved this book as a child and I was so gratified when my 5th grader also loved it. I ordered the series for her, but then a funny thing happened one week: all the books we were reading mentioned A Wrinkle in Time. It’s such an iconic book and I happy that it transcends time and space (just like in the book) to today’s young readers.

    I posted on Wrinkles from A Wrinkle in Time: Great Science-y Fiction for Middle Grade at http://www.pragmaticmom.com/?p=16650

    Thanks for your post on this wonderful author who was a real pioneer in children’s literature!

  16. John says:

    “And the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness can never overcome it.” That a fictional story might include God and a quote from John amazed me as a child. This book remains such a favorite of my heart. I wanted to be a metaphysicist when I grew up. (I am a college computer teacher) :-)

  17. Jessica says:

    My interest in science was piqued with this book. I loved Meg, her mother, Charles Wallace, and just the entire Wallace clan, and will be forever grateful to Madeline L’Engle for her inclusion of girls and women in science fiction.

  18. Jackie says:

    I read this book as a 6th grade student. Now, as a 7th grade teacher,I teach the novel A Wrinkle In Time. I am turning young ladies and gentlemen on to Science fiction. Many of my student have picked-up the sequels, Many Water, A Swiftly Tilting Planet and others. I love this book!!

  19. Sara says:

    This is one of my favorite books of ALL TIME. I always recommend it to kids who are exploring their love of reading. Its unforgettable! Pure genious.

  20. DArtagnan says:

    Wow oh Wow oh Wow. I knew I was born on the 12th for a reason :) I have loved this book since I was a child, and have just finished re-reading the entire series again just to remember how much I have always loved it. They announced the awards and I was Born on March 12, 1963. Two great occasions :) Thank you the information now my birthday is special for two reasons :) Thank you Madeline :)

  21. What a fabulous blog! I found you while browsing the IBBA Awards site, and will be following and linking to you. Thanks!

  22. Anita says:

    Annie and Aunt: Thanks so much for your kind comments.

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