Book/Graphic Novel Review: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
One of the books on those well-read lists is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. It’s been mentioned many times over the years, and I’m aware of the dark and stormy night, but it never reached high enough on my radar to motivate me to read it. All that changed when the trailer for the 2018 film adaptation dropped a few months back. Suddenly, my reasons to read the source material became legion, foremost among them:
- My new found appreciation for Chris Pine after his humble and respectful performance in Wonder Woman.
- My belated discovery of director Ava DuVernay and the vibrant vision that she brings to a stagnant Hollywood landscape.
- The intense joy it brings me to know that I can take my daughters to a movie where they can see someone who looks like them on the screen.
My reaction was almost instantaneous — that is, after I showed the trailer to my daughters and spent a few minutes retweeting all the things about the movie on my timeline. I immediately hopped onto Chapters.ca and ordered the quintet as well as the graphic novel of the first book. We have some research to do, I told my girls, and as soon as the books arrived, we were cuddled up in bed each night discovering the imagination of Madeleine L’Engle.
Meg Murray is a young girl whose father has vanished. His disappearance very likely has something to do with his scientific research into the fifth dimension–time travel. All his family can do is wait for him, until one dark and stormy night, when Meg, her savant little brother Charles Wallace, and their mother are visited by a most unusual stranger. Upon further investigation and the introduction, and the introduction of a new friend, Calvin, Meg and Charles learn that their father is indeed alive, but he is falling victim to a great darkness that threatens their world and many others and only these three young children can save him.
So sets the stage for an adventure that places the utmost demands on the imagination. L’Engle’s language and descriptions are sparingly precise. Enough to help the reader paint their own unique picture in their mind, all within the world L’Engle wants to present. This became more obvious as I read the book alongside the graphic novel, adapted and drawn by Hope Larson. Her artistic style is childlike and expressive, and the limited colour pallette lends to the sense of mystery and foreboding that looms over the story. Larson’s depictions of the witches’ alternate forms, for example, are not what I initially imagined, but it is always fascinating to see different interpretations of works of prose. And of course, DuVernay’s movie goes above and beyond, changing things even further to suit the new medium and take us into the world as she sees it.
The graphic novel adaptation loses some of the beats of the book, but the imagery balances what is lost. And to be honest, the differences are only noticeable because I read them side-by-side. I love that publishers and educators are recognizing graphic novels as the literary tools they are, and look forward to seeing more students (and grown ups) reading this story in either form in response to the film and beyond.
Reading this for the first time as an adult means that it loses much of the sense of wonder that it could have had if I’d read it as a child, but reading it alongside my daughters helps me to retain some of that innocence and naivete necessary to appreciate children’s books all the more. Meg’s insecurities, her fears, her anxieties, and even her glasses and braces are all things that my daughters could relate to, and I know I could have related to more closely had I read this when I was younger.
The story itself is a powerful one and a familiar one, taking a group of young children through difficult and even deadly challenges. I fault Dumbledore for much of Harry Potter’s horrible fate and the risks he forced upon a young boy, but there’s something to be said about stories where adults give children credit for being able to do far more than we believe they can. In a society that too often coddles children for fear of them losing their innocence, such stories are reminders that children are young and naive and innocent, but guiding them on and through even the darkest paths, giving them the tools of faith and love and trust to forge their way, are the best gifts an adult can give so that they can face the darkness–without losing themselves to it.
The metaphors in the book are many, with some being more obvious than others, and they offered many opportunities for discussion with my girls. I already have March 9, 2018 marked in my planner, and cannot wait to see the movie with them.