'A Wrinkle in Time' turns 50

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - 19:00
Popular children’s book almost wasn’t published

Imagine no science-fiction heroines.

No Buffy or Hermione. No Xenia or Storm. And no Katniss Everdeen in the “Hunger Games” trilogy.

Seems pretty ridiculous, huh?

But 50 years ago, one of the most popular children’s books ever written almost didn’t get published because editors didn’t think young readers would like a plain, smart, courageous female protagonist. Boy, were they wrong!

Rejected more than 25 times before finally being published in 1963, “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle, is still being printed in more than 15 languages with more than 10 million copies and counting. The story has been retold on screen, as a play, a graphic novel and soon makes its debut as an opera. Anchorage Public Library has 84 books by or about L’Engle.

“Wrinkle” is an exhilarating science fantasy about a young girl, Meg, who travels through time and space with her brother, Charles, and friend, Calvin. Their mission: to rescue her father, a gifted scientist, from the evil forces that have imprisoned him on another planet.

“My earliest memory of being utterly transfixed by a book was Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’” Dan Brown, “The Da Vinci Code” author told the New York Times.

Worried about the characters’ plight, he cried with relief when the story ended happily. “It was in that moment that I came aware of the magic of storytelling and the power of the printed word,” he said.

L’Engle created the ultimate adventure story about good versus evil; raised the geek factor with mentions of quantum physics, fractions and mega parsecs (measure for distances in intergalactic space) and the intellectual quota with her casual use of phrases in French, Italian, German and ancient Greek. The work was both inspired and inspiring.

Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandburg would put “Wrinkle” on the must-read list for every child.

“I wanted to be Meg Murrary, the admittedly geeky heroine,” she told a New York Times reporter. “I loved how she worked with others to fight against an unjust system and how she fought to save her family against very long odds.”

“Help, Thanks, Wow” author Anne Lamott told the New York Times the book saved her because it captured the grief and sense of isolation she felt as a child.

“I believed in it — in the plot, the people and the emotional truth of their experience … the book greatly diminished my sense of isolation,” she said.

In celebration of its 50th birthday, Cyrano’s is staging the theatrical version of the book as its family holiday special this year. Opening on L’Engle’s birthday, Friday, Nov. 29, the show will play Thursdays through Saturdays at 7 pm, and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Dec. 22.

APL partnered with Cyrano’s on an art contest for youth with the winner’s work being used as the poster for the production. The artwork of the winner, fifth grader Lauren Waitman, and all the other entries will be featured in a Cyrano’s Lobby Art Show opening on December’s First Friday on Dec. 6 from 5:30-7 pm. For tickets to the show, visit www.centertix.net or call 263-2787.

(Author quotes in this column originally appeared in the Sunday New York Times Book Review column “By the Book.”)


Final note: All locations of Anchorage Public Library are closed on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 28, and Friday, Nov. 29. We wish you a bountiful joyful holiday.


Toni Massari McPherson is the community relations coordinator for Anchorage Public Library.

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