Hi, my name is Michele and I am a Madeleine L'Engle FANATIC! I don't just like her books, I LOVE them. I think about Meg and Charles Wallace and Calvin (and Poly and Vicky and Adam and Zachary and so on and so on.) like they are my best friends. Well, maybe I don't think about Zachary like he is my best friend, but I think you know what I mean. I imagine what Charles Wallace is doing right now. I imagine that, at some point in their lives, Vicky and Poly become the best of friends.
I have always been thrilled that I live in Connecticut--close to the Northwest Hills--because that is where my book BFFs live! Right now, I live about a half of a mile away from CT Route 63, which leads right through downtown Goshen and up into Litchfield. I've been to the top of Mohawk Mountain many times, where The Austin Kids go when they need perspective. (And, trust me, if you can't get perspective from the beautiful views there, you can't get perspective anywhere.) I have driven past old stone walls and wonder if there are any stones with Ogham writing on them. I love living near these stomping grounds, if you will, for my book BFFs.
I was first introduced to A Wrinkle In Time by Mrs. Schafer, my fourth grade gifted teacher. She read it out loud to us while we worked on projects about the story. (I chose to build a life-size model of IT for my project. By the time I was done, I knew I would NEVER, EVER want to be a brain surgeon. EVER.) To this day, when I reread Wrinkle, I can still hear Mrs. Schafer's voices for all of the characters. . . and I love it.
After our unit on Wrinkle was done, nothing was ever mentioned about companion books. I spent a lot of time in my library and one day, while looking for Pippi Longstocking, I stumbled upon a TREASURE TROVE of Madeleine L'Engle's books. And that was it. I was hooked.
This month marks A Wrinkle In Time's 50th Anniversary. Last Saturday, February 11th, I attended the 50th Anniversary celebration at Symphony Space in New York City. And what a joyous celebration it was!
There was a great panel discussion lead by NY children's librarian, Betsy Bird. On the panel were some rather important YA authors: Lois Lowry (The Giver *and* my beloved Anastasia Krupnik), Katherine Paterson (Bridge To Terabithia), Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me) and R. L. Stein (The Goosebumps Series).
It was an interesting discussion, especially since out of all the authors, only Rebecca Stead, who was the youngest author on the stage, read Wrinkle when she was a child. Ms Stead was great because she didn't really want to talk TOO much about the book. She would answer questions, but then say, "I don't want to talk about this book too much!" She didn't want to ruin this beloved book by looking at it with an adult's point of view, which is something that I totally and completely understand. The discussion touched upon some interesting topics: Would Wrinkle win the Newbery now because of the "heavy-handed" religious themes presented in it? Is Meg the precursor for Katnis? (In my mind, The Hunger Games and Wrinkle cannot even be compared. . . but I guess people do, even though, as many people have said, comparisons are odious.) What would you ask Madeleine L'Engle if you could?
The topics were not kid-friendly topics, really, but what amazed me most was how silent the audience was. The audience was filled with mostly middle-graders, and they were SILENT. (Pause, for a moment, and think about how IMPRESSIVE this is.) I knew, going in, that there would be a ton of kids in the audience. I'm a mom and a teacher and I was totally ok with there being screaming and talking and crying. But there was NONE OF THAT. NONE! There was glorious, respectful SILENCE. All those kids there (girls AND boys) were in awe every moment of the event and ate every word up. To know that this book is still so loved and still so cherished fills my heart with joy.
There was also a showing of 90-Second Newbery film version of A WRINKLE IN TIME, which was campy and very funny. (Although, Meg should have been wearing glasses. . . but that is just me picking a nit.) The trailer for the 50th Anniversary Edition was shown, which was great and I love the song that is playing in the background. One of Madeleine L'Engle's granddaughters, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, spoke about how much her Grandmother would have enjoyed this celebration because she always loved a celebration. How she felt that celebrations, both big and small, were important because they marked the passing of time. Jane Curtin did a wonderful reading from the book--the part where the Mrs Ws tesser them away for the first time--and she got Mrs Whatsit's creaky hinge voice down to PERFECTION. If there is ever a *GOOD* film or stage production, Jane Curtin must play Mrs Whatsit.
After everything was said and done, I waited in a LONG line to have Rebecca Stead sign When You Reach Me and First Light. The line was LONG, LONG, LONG but the kids in the line kept me entertained by their excitement of meeting their favorite authors. Some kids had new books for Lois Lowry or R. L. Stein to sign, but some of them had their most treasured, well-read, tattered book to sign. Those kids were holding on to their books for dear life, curling them and then uncurling them. Flipping through the pages, reading favorite parts, jumping up and down. Those kids are what this event was made for. Those kids, to put it simply, rock! And so do their parents!
While waiting in the line, I got to say hi to Léna Roy, another of Madeleine L'Engle's granddaughters. I had the pleasure of meeting her last year at R. J. Julia Booksellers, where she read from her wonderful book Edges. I've enjoyed reading her blog and tweets this past year, and it was nice to say hello again.
This was a wonderful event and I am so pleased I had the opportunity to attend and revel in the joy and love that SO many people feel for Madeleine L'Engle and A Wrinkle In Time.