Sunday, June 10, 2012


Lauren and I finished A Wrinkle in Time the other night.

Lauren is still young enough that she likes it when we read bedtime stories together.  Once in a while she likes to read them to us, and thus we spend some time learning about the adventures of Babymouse or discovering new and fascinating facts contained in books that specialize in such things, but mostly she just likes to listen.

And ask questions.

It can be both difficult and entertaining to read to her, because she is constantly interrupting with questions that come at you from utterly oblique angles.  She has a future in investigative journalism, that one, because her mind thinks to wonder about things nobody else’s mind does.  Interesting questions are the leading cause of interesting answers.

The pendulum swung back to me for bedtime stories a few months ago, and I took the opportunity to introduce her to some Classics.  We read The Hobbit, for example, and she insists that eventually we will get to The Lord of the Rings as well.  We spent a happy few weeks delving through Rascal, whose adventures took place not all that far from here.  You can go visit Rascal’s house if you want – it’s a museum now.  It’s on our list.  And most recently we explored A Wrinkle in Time.

For those who haven’t read it, well, what is your problem?

It centers on the Murray family and their missing father.  Meg – what we would likely call a tween today – and her five-year-old brother Charles Wallace are each different from the norms in their own ways, and eventually they team up with a neighborhood boy (Calvin) and three eccentric women named Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Whatsit (who are more than they appear) to attempt to find and rescue Mr. Murray.  Except he’s on the other side of the universe - thus the title of the book, though perhaps the last word should have been "space" instead.  It’s quite a story.

Lauren liked it a lot.  There are three more books in this series, and they’re all on our list for future bedtime reading.

The funny thing about this book to me actually happened several years ago.

A friend was looking for recommendations for her child, I think, and asked us to name a few books.  Kim and I both thought of this one, having each read it in our own childhoods, and told her she should look into it.  “I’ve never heard of that one,” she said, “What’s it about?”

“It’s a love story!” Kim said.

“It’s a space adventure!” I said, at exactly the same time.

Our friend just looked at us.

“It’s a dessert topping!” she was no doubt thinking.

I don’t know if she ever did read the book, but she should have.  It’s both of those things, and it is astonishing how different people pick up on different aspects of books.

Now that I’ve read it again in my mid-40s, I can see a lot of things that I missed when I read it in grade school.  The whole love story angle, for example, which would not have made much of an impression on my mind then.  The overtly religious passages, which I have always tended to skip in novels, wherever I might find them and which struck me as jarringly out of place on this reading.  The thorough grounding of the novel in the reality of mid-20th-century American middle class life, in a way similar to but lighter than the way JG Ballard anchored his science fiction there.

It’s a book worth reading, though, especially if you are in late elementary or middle school.  You can find a lot of things in it.


John the Scientist said...

My daughter tore through the entire series this year. Like yours, mine asks a lot of questions, so we mostly do more adult books now. "Little Fuzzy" and "With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa" are the current slate.

David said...

You're going to read a grade-schooler E.B. Sledge? That's brave.

John the Scientist said...

We've already read half of it. She can handle it.

David said...

I'm suitably impressed!