Sharing A Wrinkle In Time

Click through to see the facebook page for A Wrinkle in Time.

My love of A Wrinkle In Time has been documented before on this blog, and because I love it so much, it is one of those books that I can’t share lightly, and I have to be careful not to put it in the hands of a reader who isn’t ready for it. Usually when I suggest books to kids, it doesn’t hurt my feelings if they decide they don’t want it, but if a kid were to reject Wrinkle, I’d be ineffably sad. (I was recently talking with a parent whose daughter was reading A Wrinkle In Time for a school assignment, and struggling with reading it. I wasn’t sure what to tell her. Every book its reader, and every reader its book; perhaps, sad though it sounds, she just wasn’t one of this book’s many and ardent readers.)

But I have to do something to celebrate this book’s 50th anniversary, so I’m going to throw a big book party. I’m looking to have an event in the fall, maybe October or November, so that the chance of somewhat dark and stormy weather will be increased. I’m thinking this will definitely be a family/all ages event, because I am sure there are some parents and grandparents out there who have some warm feelings about this book.

There will definitely have to be a buffet of all of the different kinds of sandwiches that the Murrays eat in the beginning of the book, and some hot chocolate. I also think having my fellow librarians and volunteers dress in costume as various characters would add a lot of fun to the event.

I want to booktalk Wrinkle and a bunch of L’Engle’s other books, and of course read aloud that first amazing chapter. We could also tie in When You Reach Me, which, as a contemporary Newbery winner, might pull in additional readers to the story. We’ll also booktalk other great fantasy and science fiction titles for kids.

How will you be celebrating the anniversary of this wonderful book?

My other posts about Wrinkle: It was a Dark and Stormy Night and How it All Began.

Read what other bloggers are saying about A Wrinkle in Time.

top 11 posts of 2011

When I first started this blog, I had no grand aspirations. I am passionate about the library field, child development, and children’s literature, and I wanted to have a place to express my thoughts, and I hoped that I would garner at least a dedicated, engaged readership. Fairly early on, I experienced the Elizabeth Bird bump, and for that I’ve always been grateful. I appreciate my twitter friends for all their conversation and ideas, and frankly, without them I probably wouldn’t be writing much at all.

Looking at my top posts, I realize that people love it when I write about things that a lot of librarians are probably thinking but are too scared to talk about, and my programs for children. I’m going to make an effort to write more about these topics in 2012, and also write more from the gut and the heart, no matter what the topic (my angsty review of Ingenue being an example of this new goal).

Thank you to all my readers for commenting, emailing my posts to your colleagues, and generally being awesome. Let’s do more of this in 2012.

top posts (excluding static pages):

11. Meow Mix. I think this is solely because of the cat picture, although I think my cat who doesn’t know how to meow storytime through line is pretty awesome.

10. Make it Happen: Teen Space. Pretty much an airing of grievances post that also allowed me to congratulate and laud a fellow librarian. Now complete with a comment I didn’t initially approve because it’s super negative, but hey, whatevs. Different strokes for different folks.

9. New Storytime Favorites. Why is this so popular? I dunno. Probably because I mention cats and I’m a librarian. The cat/librarian diagram is so venn it’s almost just a circle.

8. Tales of the Madman Underground: A Love Letter. This was a very personal post and book review, and I almost didn’t publish it. But this book is amazing and I think that librarians—much like teachers—need to fight for the right to be real, flawed, human people with pasts and problems like any other people. Just because we work with children doesn’t mean we’re all Mary Poppins, and we shouldn’t be punished for being real people. But seriously, read that book.

7. The Ethical Librarian. This one is me totally ranting and raving on my high horse while my horse is standing on a soapbox. You might as well call me the Bughouse Square librarian. I took an information ethics class in library school, one of the few actually challenging courses I took, and it ruined me forever. You’re welcome.

6. #makeitbetter. I just hate bad librarians. Sorry if you’re one of them.

5. You might not being doing it wrong, but you could certainly do it better. Ah, my screed against library schools. I might not get so worked up if I weren’t $50,000 in debt, but that ship’s sailed, huh? Good times. And by good times I mean kill me.

4. Librarian, Weed Thyself! Wherein I apply the CREW and MUSTIE methods to people. I am a monster. A pudgy, cuddly, hyberpolic monster.

3. Beginning Reader Storytime. A warm and fuzzy post about how I revamped my library’s preschool storytime. How…charming.

2. How to Become the Best, Most Versatile Baby & Toddler Programmer Ever. Babies and toddlers are tricky audiences.

And, unsurprisingly, the number one post of 2011 is…

1.  Summer Reading, Pain in my a**. So many people enjoyed my rants about the sacred cow of summer reading, which really pleased me. I love when people reassess long running programs with a fresh eye. Can’t wait to see what people do with their 2012 summer reading programs.

Happy new year, everyone!


Miss Julie

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

In 2012, A Wrinkle in Time will be fifty years old, and I’ll be one of many people celebrating this marvelous, mind-bending, heart opening piece of children’s literature.

It’s been a dark and stormy week here in a Chicago, which makes it a perfect time to reminisce about this, one of my favorite books of all time.

It was 1988. I was in the fourth grade, I had English class with Mrs. Sandoval. I loved her name–it was pronounced “Sanduhvall” (rhymed with fall)–but when I saw it, I always imagined an oval shaped sand box. I loved her eloquent speeches, her expressive reading voice, her slightly bohemian clothing, and her ginger hair. I loved her classroom, full of books and rich with new ideas and words. One of her rules was to “finish assignments within the allotted time.” I had no idea what “allotted” meant or that it was an actual word, and I, in my over-read fourth grade know-it-all-ness, asked her, “Are you sure you don’t mean ‘allowed’?” She kindly said no, allotted is the word she meant to use, and she gave me the dictionary so I could look it up–and so began my love of dictionaries.

We read so many good books in that class, including A Cricket in Times Square and Charlotte’s Web. Half-way through the year our class reading assignment was A Wrinkle in Time. The edition we read had this amazing, wackadoodle, good show sir worthy cover:Isn’t that insane? It completely blew my nine year old mind. The wings for arms, the creepy red-eyed disapproving turtle face, the mountains…several kids in my class mumbled and groaned their displeasure when they saw the book (actually, they hated every book, and I hated them with equal fervor), but I could hardly wait to start reading.

And that opening line! Who else could get away with using that line outside of the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest? Madeline, that’s who.

Here’s a synopsis from the publisher’s page, and the synopsis I remember from my youth, for you sad, sad people who haven’t read this book yet:

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

I immediately loved and identified with Meg Murray. Like Meg, I was an ugly duckling who had to protect herself and a younger brother from the cruelty of other children. I admired Meg’s hot-headedness and her willingness to stand up for herself and her beliefs. When I was faced with bullies, I tended to hang my head and wish for them to go away. I wished I had Meg’s foolhardy bravery and determination (I developed it as an adult, much to the chagrin of some of my friends, family and colleagues) instead of my low self-esteem and self-hatred.

I loved other characters, too: Charles Wallace, Mrs. Murray, the Ws, and I loved loved LOVED Calvin O’Keefe. What dorky, awkward girl didn’t love charming, awkward Calvin? He’s like the proto-Rory* (maybe that’s why I love Rory so much…) I loved to hate IT and its creepy, pulsing brain-ness, and the man with red eyes. I loved how Mr. Murray was real and flawed and yet Meg still loved him. (I myself had a real and flawed father who was proving to be less and less loveable every day, but that’s another story for another time).

I wanted to live in that rambling old farmhouse and eat tomato sandwiches and have an attic bedroom and a dog named Fortinbras. I was fascinated by how they made hot cocoa with milk, since I was used to powdered hot chocolate made with boiling water, usually in the microwave. I was as amazed at the mundane day to day details as I was at the time and space traveling aspects. This book was everything I needed and wanted.

I loved this book so much that not even hearing my fellow students reading aloud in their plodding monotones could hurt the story. While they stumbled along I was reading ahead, silently, desperately wishing to reach the end while simultaneously wanting the book to go on forever.

I cried when Meg saved her brother by loving him. I had never felt love like that from anyone, and I didn’t think I ever would. I couldn’t think of anyone in my life who would risk so much to save me, and I felt miserable, yet strangely elated—if brassy, bitchy, mousy, insecure Meg could find love, didn’t that mean that someday I could, too? I wished, that when I was cold and alone and scared, that I could crawl into the warm, loving arms of an Aunt Beast.

When I re-read this book, I experience my own wrinkle in time. I am simultaneously an adult, identifying a bit more with the adult characters in the novel, finding myself somewhat exasperated with Meg’s behavior, and a child, thrilling to the romance, danger, and overwhelming love of the novel the same as I did the first time I read it.

Someone recently told me that they’ve never read Wrinkle, yet they really enjoyed When You Reach Me. I said, I’m glad you enjoyed the book, but you only had half the experience.

You should fix that. Right now.

Especially if it’s a dark and stormy night as you read this.

book battles

There are quite a few book battles going on right now, for practically every reading taste.

SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ books is going strong, and focuses on children’s books from the past year, including chapter books, nonfiction, and graphic novels. I particularly enjoyed match 3, with judge Barry Lyga. My Two Barrys (Barries?)–I’d watch that sitcom. A replacement for Two and a Half Men, perhaps?

Out of Print Books is hosting 2011 Book Madness, with a focus on classic (out of print) books. Each bracket is also sponsored by a different library, which is an added layer of wonderfulness. Lots of voting discussions going on at their facebook page as well. Out of Print is a very cool organization that creates gorgeous t-shirts with book cover designs, and for each shirt they sell, one book is donated to a community in need through their partner Books For Africa.

The Morning News (presented by Field Notes) is also hosting a book battle, focusing on contemporary literary adult fiction. I’m not overly familiar with The Morning News, but I really love their multi-purpose Frankenreview.

There’s also the ongoing battle over e-books, but that doesn’t really interest me overly much; if you want to investigate that battle, go see Toby over at theanalogdivide.

My library does its own version of the SLJ book battle. We have a huge bulletin board in our department that we post the brackets on, and kids vote during Children’s Book Week. When we get down to two books, we have a party with a book cake that has the two finalists frosted on it. We book talk and celebrate the two finalists and then announce the ultimate winner, and devour the cake-y likenesses. It’s a ton of fun and I highly recommend you try it at your library.

Anything I’m missing?

-Miss Julie


I have a guest post up over at Librarian by Day, about one of my favorite backlist/crossover titles, My Sister The Moon, by Sue Harrison. I got into Sue Harrison’s books after I read Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear/Earth’s Children series (which is FINALLY coming to an end in 2011, thank jeebus) and have found that Harrison’s work stands the test of time much better than Auel’s. I re-read all of the Earth’s Children books recently, in anticipation of the final volume in the series, and, wow, Auel has created an obnoxious character in Ayla, the preternaturally perfect prehistoric heroine.

For those of you who’ve read the Twilight books, do you remember how Bella, when she became a vampire, was, like the BEST VAMPIRE THAT EVAR VAMPIRED? Well, that’s Ayla–except she’s not a vampire, she’s just the mother of invention. Some of Ayla’s discoveries/inventions include:

1. Fire

2. Taming a wolf

3. How conception works

4. Birth control

5. Taming and riding horses

6. Making casts for broken bones

7. Seeing through time, i.e., tripping balls

8. Taming a cave lion

9. Awesome hangover cure

Also, she’s tall and blond and thin and blue-eyed, which is apparently the beauty ideal in prehistoric times even though the prominent female idol is the chubby Venus of Willendorf. Everything Ayla does is super-sexy, super-mysterious, and super-perfect. Everyone loves her eventually, even if they are initially repulsed by her adopted family (who are insultingly referred to as Flatheads by the Neanderthals).

I actually think Twilight fans would actually really, really love these books. The quality of writing is similar and the main characters are similarly self-deprecating yet strangely irresistible to everyone she comes into contact with. ALSO, WAY before Renesme was hideously coined, Ayla named her baby Jonayla, which is a combo of her name, Ayla, and her mate’s, Jondalar, because she wanted the name to reflect how the baby was a mixture of both of them. In The Mammoth Hunters, there is also a love triangle that is WAY more frustrating than Twilight‘s ever was. I mean, Ayla actually dumps the guy on the day of their wedding to run off with Jondalar. That’s way colder than anything Bella did, I think.

These books are also great for post-Twilight teens because of their wholesome yet astoundingly descriptive sex scenes. Nothing lurid, but there are lots of body parts described in Harlequin romance type vocabulary, and you get a sexy scene approximately every twenty pages, which is a pretty good ratio. From the wikipedia entry: “The author’s treatment of unconventional sexual practices (which are central to her hypothesized nature-centered religions) has earned the series the twentieth place on the American Library Association‘s 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000.” Now THAT’S a stamp of approval when it comes to sexy content, amirite?

If you like books that are so vexing that you actually yell at the book, OUT LOUD, yet you still have to keep reading because you just HAVE TO KNOW what happens, then I highly recommend the Earth’s Children books. Has anyone else read these and know what I’m talking about? Please let me know in the comments, I’d love to get a good discussion going.

backlist beauties: One for the Morning Glory

One for the Morning Glory by John Barnes.

It was 1996 or 1997  and I was in the Hallmark Waldenbooks in Clinton, Ia, with my mother and most likely my sister. Even though our small family farm never brought in a sizeable or steady income, one thing my mother always allowed us to buy was books. I was scanning the paperbacks in the science fiction section when this cover caught my eye:

I was still deeply in love with The Phantom of the Opera ( the Leroux novel, and the musical, and Susan Kay’s “sequel” Phantom) at the time, so I was first drawn to the Twisted Man, up in the corner. He was so…brooding. And creepy. I also loved the rest of the cover, with its classic fairy-tale illustration style. My mom bought it for me, and I was ready to read.

I loved this book when I first read it, and I love it still. It’s been added to my bedside reading pile, because it is due for a re-reading soon. Does anyone else do that? Re-read books? It’s like visiting an old friend, and if the book is good enough, deep enough, and rich enough, you find new things to uncover with every reading. Also, you’re coming at it from a different age, a different physical and mental space, so different elements will jump out at you than before.

This book is a fairy-tale in the vein of A Princess Bride, and has been compared to that title often. The tale is very self-aware, and plays on fairy-tale conceits with skill. As a child, Prince Amatus drank some of the wine of the Gods, and thereafter was only half a man–literally*: half of his body suddenly disappears. A “year and a day” later, the Prince is joined by four mysterious companions who will prove to be the key to his fate and the restoration of his missing half. Before he can be restored, he and his companions will have to save innocent maidens, befriend mythical beasts, and uncover frightening truths that might better stay uncovered.

Enough with my crap-tastic summary. I can’t say enough good things about this book. Barnes is an author known for his hard science fiction, or so the internet tells me–I haven’t actually read any of it–and recently his book Tales from the Madman Underground was selected as a Printz honor book, which goes to show you that he is a versatile and well-respected author.

But I don’t really care about those books (although Tales is definitely on my tbr list as well); I completely agree with the writer over at Steely Pips, who wrote, “A [..] mystery […] I’d badly like to see solved, is “how can we get John Barnes to write more books like this one?” I’m not wild about his other books, but this is really good stuff.”

If you’re a fantasy fan, or a fan of sly humor and malapropisms (there’s a character named Pell Grant for f’s sake!), or a fan of rich, lovely books, please do yourself a favor and find a copy of One for The Morning Glory by John Barnes.

Recommended if you like: The Prydain Chronicles, The Princess Bride, the Narnia books.

*I mean, really literally, not literally in the way that everyone seems to be misusing it these days

related links:

It was reviewed on a Fantasy Friday Review over at Literary Transgressions.

Review of the book and a little bio of Barnes from SFSite.

Steely Pips wrote about it on his book log.