Monday, September 10, 2007

I'll miss you, Madeleine

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."


  1. That's a beautiful quote. The news took me aback as well. It's so sad, and she'll be missed. A Wrinkle in Time is one of the books that cemented reading as a passion for me at a young age. In fact it's one of the first books that I remember truly falling in love with.

  2. I am so saddened by this news. A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all-time favorites. I own it and it's one of the few fiction books I re-read on a regular basis. It's a stunning, heartfelt, incredibly imaginative piece of writing.

  3. Thanks, guys. I completely agree. Did you know that book got rejected over a dozen times? Not because editors didn't like it, but because they thought it was too difficult and strange for children. Kind of makes you wonder what other amazing books might be bouncing around out there from publisher to publisher, waiting for someone to take a risk on them...

  4. it's always heartbreaking to lose a friend and hero. my sympathies, darla.

  5. What a great tribute. Thanks! And thanks for visiting my site today. I don't know why everyone doesn't read children's books either (that was a lot of negatives, but you know what I mean). And for the record, I think that The Velvet Room holds up, and would be safe to re-read. Of course I'd hate to be wrong in how it affects you...

  6. Oh how sad, I hadn't heard.

    Strange, though, I just started re-reading all her books last week, starting with the series about the Austins. I've finished a Ring of Endless Light and I'm just reading the one where Vicky goes to Antarctica (the name of which I've forgotten, temporarily).

    I LOVED a Wrinkle in Time as a kid, and think it stands up well to re-reading as an adult too.

  7. I am ashamed to say I never read her. I really must - reading the reactions to this sad news has shown me how deeply her work moved people.

    It's been a bad year... first Lloyd Alexander, now her.

  8. Thank you, Molly!

    Jen - Thanks! And that is good to hear about the Velvet Room. I eventually go back and reread my favorites, so I will make sure I hit that one again.

    Rebekka - that is funny that you are reading those books now. Are you enjoying them as much this time around? I don't think I've read the Antarctica one since it first came out, but I remember enjoying it.

    Nymeth - I was thinking the same thing about Lloyd Alexander, and now Madeleine L'Engle. I know we can't keep them forever, but jeez, can we have a break now? I will be looking forward to reading your reviews when you get around to trying out one of L'Engle's books. I think you are sure to enjoy them.

  9. She will truly be missed.


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