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Let Me Put My Suggestions In You: The Works of Madeleine L’Engle

Probably the event that set me on my nerdy, science-fiction filled life more than any other was the fact that my dad got so excite about watching Star Wars with me when I was very young, like 5 or 6. It quickly became a tradition for me: whenever I was home sick or home for a snow day, it was a “Star Wars Marathon Day”. I can thank the original Star Wars trilogy for getting me hooked on science fiction and epics. But I think I can thank Madeleine L’Engle for my continued plummet in to the world of science fiction and fantasy. Her young adult novels are perfect for an open-minded 10 year old, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Like Asminov for many others, I found L’Engle was one of the first authors that sparked my love of all things science fiction and fantasy, so I thought it only appropriate to dedicate today’s suggestion page to the wonderful writer.

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Probably the most popular, and my favorite of all of L’Engle’s series, was the “Time Quintet”, starting with A Wrinkle In Time. Doing some back research on the novel I was surprised to find that it was first published in 1962. It is of the genre “science fantasy”, and follows the Murry family on an epic quest. Knowing now that this novel was written in 1962, it was really quite a forward thinking novel for the times.

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In particular, the Murry family features a 14 year old girl who is feisty and brilliant, a 5 year old prodigy that can read minds named Charles, and a pair of scientist parents that foster imagination and curiosity in their children. As a child I remember being very envious of this family’s house: it featured a laboratory, large benches for experiments, and the family even cooked most of their meals on Bunsen burners! If I ever have kids you can be sure there will be telescopes and microscopes galore in the household. And this might not all sound like a forward-thinking situation, but really in 1962 having both your parents working, and scientists, AND supporting your children to do whatever they want to do, that’s just amazing! It’s still a rare situation in certain ways nowadays.

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Back to A Wrinkle In Time, this novel has centaur like aliens that disguise themselves as humans (and in particular elderly, wise witches) to transport the Murry family to another planet, and then on a mission to find the Murry’s lost father on another planet, who has been captured and is being held hostage by a giant “black thing” that is essentially evil incarnate. Yeah, a little far fetched, but so much fun as a 10 year old girl reading this book. I absolutely adored the witch beings, Mrs Who, Mrs Which, and Mrs Whatsit. Each of the main characters have many admirable characteristics, and few flaws. And the traveling to distant, bizarre, and beautiful planets is always fun.

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Even though they succeed in their first mission, there are two more novels in this incredible series. Next up is A Wind In The Door, tries to delve in to more science concepts, which in hind sight are very outlandish, but at the time it was written (1973) probably were feasible in some ways. In particular, the novel tries to deal with mitochondria, which we didn’t know nearly as much as we do know about them as then. Charles and Meg are a year older, and Charles is developing a progressively crippling disease making him short of breath that has to do with mitochondrial dysfunction. Of course we now know most of these diseases in real life are fatal. And most of the science stops at that point, followed by a fantastical novel with dragons and magic. There are again incredibly endearing characters in this novel in addition to the main ones from the first.

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The last book of the series takes place several years later, and is titled A Swiftly Tilting Planet. This novel centers around Charles, who at 16 has become a scientist in Britain seeing as he was a prodigy and all. Without going into too much detail, this novel deals with time traveling and preventing a nuclear war. Enough said.

Madeleine L’Engle has many other novels out there, several of them featuring the original characters from the original Time Quartet. I have not read them all, but have enjoyed many of them. I highly recommend reading L’Engle if you have not already, and I also think it is a great way to inspire a young child to read, or better yet enter a fantastical world of amazing creatures, scientific curiosity, and epic quests. Until next time nerds.

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Posted on February 18, 2015, in Books, Let Me Put My Suggestions In You and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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