Ironing Out the Wrinkles

Madeleine L'Engle. A Wrinkle in Time. New York: Crosswick Ltd., 1962.
external image WrinkleInTime.gif A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle is the first book in L'Engle's Time Quintent. Many claim that Wrinkle is a precursor to many comtemporary books such as Harry Potter. Written in 1962, it is the story of Margaret "Meg" Murray who is in the 9th grade. Meg is struggling in school and feels frustrated in her search to find where she "fits in". Along with her peculiar younger brother Charles Wallace and the popular older basketball star, Calvin O'Keefe the three embark on a journey accross the galaxies to search for Meg and Charles Wallace's scientist father who has been missing for some time, after leaving to complete a secret mission for the government.

With several interesting and other-worldly characters named Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which and Aunt Beast; Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin are taken on a magical journey that challenges everything they understand about time, space and themselves. Held constant throughout the entire novel is the struggle that these three young adventurers face in coming to understand themselves and learning to control and use their strengths and weaknesses. They are thrown into an epic battle between good and evil and must rely on each other to survive.

Recommendations for Teachers
A Wrinkle in Time has gotten much critical acclaim, including a John Newbery Medal in 1963. According to, A Wrinkle in Time's grade level reading equivilent is a 5.8. Although the reading level may leave something to be desired, this book could still be used as an excellent companion piece for novels such as Harry Potter, or the Chronicles of Narnia. Additionally, this book is a lovely introduction to the genres of fantasy and science fiction.

Obviously, one of the main concepts in the book is the struggle between good and evil. What is good? What is evil? How can we be certain when thrown into an unfamiliar environment. The book could lend itself to discussion about discrimination, although it would probably be quite limited without a companion piece to tie it to something historical. Also, there is a lot of discussion about trust and the importance it place in our relationships and how we, as humans make descisions. If desired, A Wrinkle in Time, could be used to discuss concepts of self and family. Throughout the novel Meg struggles with her self concept and the way that other people perceive her. She is struggling to find "where she belongs" in both her family and at school. Calvin also struggles with where he feels he fits in within his peers too; although he is very popular and well-liked, he is not satisfied and feels that he simply pretends to be normal. Meg and Calvin's relationships with their family could also lead to interesting discussions. Additionally, the characterization of some of the main characters and the description of the different worlds and The Dark Thing could get students responding to concepts such as symbolism and metaphors.

A Wrinkle in Time is not a story without controversy. It has been challenged numerous times, making the ALA's 100 Most Frequently Challenged list at #22 for 1990-2000. It has also been banned on at least one occassion. The book is often challenged for its use of magic and supernatural powers. It was also banned in Alabama for using Jesus' name in the same list as scientific and artistic geniouses, who, within the framework of the book were credited as fighting against evil on Earth. Because of the controversy that seems to follow A Wrinkle in Time, we recommend taking all necessary precautions, including sending home a permission slip to allow for students to read the book.

About Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007)
Madeleine L'Engle
Madeleine L'Engle
Madeleine L'Engle Camp was born in 1918 in New York City. Her parents, Madeleine and Charles, couldn't seem to agree on how their daughter should be raised and as such, L'Engle attended a fair share of boarding schools during her youth. The last boarding school Madeleine attended was Ashley Hall in Charleston, South Carolina.

From 1937 to 1941 Madeleine L'Engle attended Smith College in Massachusettes. From there, she returned to New York City where she spent some time in theatre. In fact, Madeleine met her husband, Hugh Franklin, while performing in Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. She married Franklin in 1947, the year after she published her first book The Small Rain. Together L'Engle and Franklin had three children; Josephine, Maria, and Bion Franklin.

Prior to her death on September 6, 2007, Madeleine L'Engle had an illustrious career as a young adult writer. She won a variety of awards including the John Newbery Medal, the American Book Award, and the ALAN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Adolescent Literature from the National Council of Teachers of English. You can find a complete listing of her awards and honors on her official website. Her best known works are divided between the Chronos and Kairos series which include titles like A Wrinkle In Time, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and The Arm of The Starfish. You can find a complete list of her works here.

Other books in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet series


Book 2 A Wind in the Door
Book 3 A Swiftly Tilting Planet
Book 4 Many Waters
Book 5 An Acceptable Time

Multimedia (Video or Audio)

In the first video, Physicist David Morgan uses a white board to provide an explanation of what a tesseract is. The second video is a very creative retelling of the story where a few friends got together for their language arts class project, and made a rap-video outlining the plot of A Wrinkle in Time.

Additional Resources:
  • Official website- This website is devoted to the book and contains great information for teachers and readers alike.
  • About the author- A website with information about the author.
  • Lesson Plan- Offers a lesson plan based on the book
  • Movie- Offers information on the movie based on the book.
  • Newspaper- Article written as a tribute to Madeleine L'Engle.
  • Information on the book from the Glencoe library.
  • Study Guide- A chapter by chapter guide with vocabulary words.
  • More lesson plans - More ideas for teaching the book.
  • Analysis of the book- Contains useful information for teachers just beginning to use the book.
  • The Open Critic- A literate discussion of literature. This page gives one opinion on the pertinence of the book.
Our other reviews:
Gossip Girl
Looking for Alaska
--Kati Hoekstra, Kaye Martin,and Leigha Golden