I suppose the news shouldn't have been a huge surprise, since it was no secret that Madeleine L'Engle was elderly and not in the best of health. But I was still unprepared for the impact when I heard she had died.
My third-grade teacher read us A Wrinkle in Time, and from that moment I was hooked on her books. I will never forget the creepiness I felt when my teacher read us the scene on the planet Camazotz, when all the children come out of their houses, bouncing balls in unison. Yikes! And the terrifying villain, IT, haunted my dreams for years after that.
My favorite of her children's books, though, are the ones that feature Vicky Austin and the Austin family, and my very favorite of those is A Ring of Endless Light. As I child I loved to lose myself in stories about the Austin family because it was the kind of family I longed to have, and those books were a safe but stimulating place to think and learn about life. I wished I could be Vicky! Now, as an adult, when I reread those books I wish I could be like Vicky's mother - and I try to create that same sort of loving, inspiring family dynamic for my own family. (Of course, my children will probably be reading books about some other family and wishing they could have that one instead!)
I loved discovering L'Engle's books for adults, after growing up reading her books for kids. My favorite of her novels for adults is A Severed Wasp, and my very favorite of her nonfiction books is A Circle of Quiet. I read that book every two or three years, just to keep my head on straight and make sure I'm headed in the right direction. Her writing has had that kind of impact on my life, and on my own writing, as well. Her words never fail to wake up my mind and make me look at things in a new light, from a new perspective, especially when I've been going through a difficult time.
I am comforted by the fact that, even though she won't be writing any more books, we still have all the ones she did write, and I know I will turn to them again and again for a long time to come.
I leave you with one of my favorite quotations by Madeleine L'Engle. It's from her book Walking on Water:
"When I am grappling with ideas which are radical enough to upset grown-ups, then I am likely to put these ideas into a story which will be marketed for children, because children understand what their parents have rejected and forgotten."