You guys! Did you know that 2012 is the 50th anniversary of 1962? And as such, is the 50th anniversary of lots of things, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the first American to orbit the earth, Spiderman, Marilyn Monroe's death, the term "personal computer", and the birth of Axl Rose AND Jon Bon Jovi. 1962! BIG YEAR, is what I'm saying. But the anniversary I'm MOST excited about is the anniversary of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. The special edition has a kickass new cover, based on the original cover art, and the folks over at Macmillan are putting together a 50-day blog party thing -- which is awesome, though unlike a real-life party, you have to supply your own drinks.
A Wrinkle in Time is one of those books I've read so often, I can't remember the exact first time. My aunt gave it to me when I was seven or eight, along with Little House in the Big Woods, and I didn't pick it up right away. I did read Little House, but thought it was kind of boring, so I guess I just relegated Wrinkle to the same pile. Maybe it was the rainbow and centaur on the cover -- I was a dedicated tomboy, and shunned all things Lisa Frank (probably because the popular girls with Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers were mean to me, so I fought back by pretending not to care and saying things they liked were dumb, and played Ninja Turtles at recess with boys instead). Anyway, what became one of my favorite books of all time EVER sat on my bookshelf for ages, or at least a few months, before I must have run out of other things to read and cracked it open.
I do remember thinking the first line ("It was a dark and stormy night") was deliciously spooky and chilling, not knowing it was a bit of a joke. I definitely craved hot cocoa, just the beginning of a lifetime of being very food suggestible. I thought it was cool Meg was good at math -- I wanted to be an astronaut back then -- and was fascinated with tessering and the fancy-pants scientific parents and all the mysterious planets and aliens. I couldn't get enough sci-fi (see wanting to be an astronaut), and while this wasn't my first (I think that honor goes to Journey to the Mushroom Planet), it became my favorite. I spent hours practicing rearranging molecules with my mind in order to make holes in solid objects (it never worked). And it was definitely my first introduction to dystopia, totally blowing my tiny mind.
Here I was, a dress-hating, tangle-haired, Lisa-Frank-shunning, chatterbox tomboy who occasionally got into fistfights with boys, handed a book about a girl who didn't fit in at school, was better at math than all the boys (ok, so that's not me), and who learned sometimes the only way to save the world -- the UNIVERSE -- is to be strong and know your own mind, especially when it's different from everyone elses'. That "Alike and Equal are not the same thing at all."
Some time later, my third-grade teacher read it aloud in class. It was many girls' first science fiction, but it read in a way that wasn't science fiction -- space-time travel and intelligent, empathetic life on other planets and soul-destroying totalitarianism were just a part of everyday life that most people just weren't aware of.
I don't remember what the other kids in my class thought about the book. By then, I'd already worked my way through the as much of the L'Engle canon as was available at the library, and paid more attention to the story than to my classmates. They must not have hated it, or I would have spent more time out in the hall for fighting than I already did, so that's something.
I do know I didn't care that I'd already read it -- the book was just as exciting in class as it had been when I'd read it at home. And every time I've read it since, it's been both intensely familiar and something new -- an adventure, a romance, a paean to independence, a confidence builder. My favorite version might be the audiobook, read by Madeleine L'Engle herself. I'm always astonished when I remember how many times the book was rejected -- 26!!! -- and how she was ready to quit writing altogether because of the reception the book was getting ("because it deals overtly with the problem of evil, and it was too difficult for children, and was it a children's or an adults' book, anyhow?"). It's my go-to comfort book, the one that reminds me to be myself, to not give up, and I've bought several copies to make sure I always have one for lending, one for giving, and one for me, and to make sure I have one ready when it's time to read it to my own kid.
Can't get enough of A Wrinkle in Time? Neither can these guys.