Book of the Day: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The way it looked when I read it

I don’t think it was one book, but many, that saved my life as a child. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle was surely one of them. It made me want to be a writer.

I was quiet, sensitive and imaginative. We moved to a new town where the houses were bigger, the families richer and more status conscious, and the kids more cruel. By second grade all of the kids in my class already had friends, or at least other kids they traveled with that could protect them from the truly sadistic kids at the top of the heap. I walked into class on that first day with no armor and no allies. I dreaded the unstructured time of recess and walking between school and home. I never knew what kind of mean things the kids I passed would say, but I knew they would say something. For reasons I still don’t fully understand, it didn’t get better until seventh grade. That year I started junior high, a new school with a new group of kids who didn’t know I should be treated as an untouchable.

But in second grade, the picture books gave way to longer books with characters I could spend hours with all on my own. Book by book, I built a safe space inside myself where I could journey and be free.

Meg Murry, the heroine of A Wrinkle in Time, was awkward, wore glasses, and felt like a disaster just like I did. And her faults, it turned out, were her strengths. She was like me, which helped make it okay to be me. She had my name, too, a name I’d come to hate for all the ways other kids used it against me. Meg helped me take it back. She traveled to other planets, met magical beings, and found courage she never knew she had in order to save her family. I am pretty sure the minute I finished this book, I went back and read it again.

If anything I write does for one person what A Wrinkle in Time did for me, I would be happy.

Here’s how it starts:

It was a dark and stormy night.

In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraith-like shadows that raced along the ground.

The house shook.

Wrapped in her quilt, Meg shook.

She wasn’t usually afraid of weather. —It’s not just the weather, she thought. —It’s the weather on top of everything else. On top of me. On top of Meg Murry doing everything wrong. 

This book was probably my first science fiction book ever. I still remember trying to wrap my mind around the idea that you could somehow fold space and time into pleats. I’ve loved time travel stories ever since.

Thanks for reading my post! Were there books that saved you as a young person? Which ones? Comment below!

Book of the Day: Shakespeare’s Restless World

Yesterday was Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday, and in honor of him, today’s book is Shakespeare’s Restless World.

I was lucky enough to visit the British Museum and see this exhibit a year or so ago. Only twenty objects in it, and I could have spent hours there. There were video clips showing top actors speaking key speeches. John Dee’s magical scrying mirror, with which the gifted mathematician spoke to angels, reveals a twilight mind straddling magic and science. A rapier and dagger found on the banks of the Thames unfurls a more violent time than you might imagine, unless you’ve watched all of the Tudors, of course. There’s even Henry V’s supposed battle gear, including his helmet. From a single fork tossed into the river an entire banquet of Elizabethan snacks unfolds.

Each chapter in this book was a room in the exhibit. Authored by the man behind The History of the World in 100 objects, this volume will take you from microcosm to macrocosm. If you ever wanted to step back in time to Elizabethan England, without getting the plague or all the other ills that flesh was heir to, here’s your time machine!

Here’s how the book starts:

Can this cockpit hold
the vasty fields of France? Or may we cram
within this wooden O the very casques
that did affright the air at Agincourt?

I love the way Shakespeare uses ‘casques,’ the French word for ‘helmet,’ for Agincourt is in France. He brings you to his setting right away. That kind of wordplay makes me geek out.

This text from the Prologue of “Henry V” is telling. Yes, Neil MacGregor can cram it in, reading an entire civilization deeply from just twenty artifacts.

What do you think? Are you a Shakespeare fan? Have you ever seen one of his plays?

Did I mention that Benedict Cumberbatch will be playing Richard III in the upcoming series of history plays from the folks who brought you The Hollow Crown: The Complete Series?

Excited? Me, too!

What’s your favorite Shakespeare play and why? Let me know below.