This summer, every Monday and Wednesday, I am hosting a series of guest posts here on my blog called Middle Grade Memories. In this series, authors, agents, librarians, and editors talk about their favorite childhood middle grade books. I’m beyond thrilled to share their middle grade memories with you.
Read on as Stephanie talks about one of her favorite childhood middle grade books, A Wrinkle in Time. Then check out the giveaway!
A Wrinkle in Time begins: “It was a dark and stormy night” – and honestly, that would have been enough to hook me, as a kid (or even now!) – but that isn’t the moment where I first began to love it. It’s just a wonderful opening about a girl wrapped up in a patchwork quilt, looking out at a storm through the window of her attic bedroom.
I only really started to love it a page later, when that girl, Meg Murry, starts thinking about all the ways that she’s ‘wrong’ – all the ways her schoolmates have made it clear that she’s ‘wrong’, from her schoolwork to the ways she interacts with the other kids – and here’s one of the examples:
On the way home from school, walking up the road with her arms full of books, one of the boys had said something about her ‘dumb baby brother’. At this she’d thrown the books on the side of the road and tackled him with every ounce of strength she had, and arrived home with her blouse torn and a big bruise under her eye.
Not only was I a big sister (and a protective one), but most of all, oh, did I feel wrong in fifth grade, in so many ways! I’d just transferred in from a different school, so I was the only one who wasn’t part of a tight friends’ group, and I never did find my way into any of them, not that year. There were girls who were nice to me, and I wasn’t really bullied, but I could just never figure out how to really fit in.
I still remember the fierce confusion of feelings I had at that age, too – the sudden realization that I was supposed to be worried about my appearance, when I’d never cared about that before; and the jealousy I felt of the boys who were ‘allowed’ to fight, when I had all these aggressive instincts running through me, too. But “girls don’t do those sorts of things”, and I was a nice girl, a smart, quiet girl. Right?
In fact, my biggest humiliating moment in fifth grade came when a group of girls I was working with in class did some typical ten-year-old mean-girl pack move, and instead of having the guts to attack them like Meg would have, I burst into tears, in public, in the middle of class.
Ohhhh, was that a bad moment. Worse yet, everyone in my class saw it – and soon, EVERYONE knew about it! It’s been twenty-six years since that happened, but still, when I remember hiding in a bathroom cubicle afterwards – and the moment when a group of other girls came into the bathroom, not realizing I was there, and started gossiping about what I’d done…
Yeah. Maybe fifty years might be enough distance to ease the burn? But then again, maybe not.
Fifth grade was not fun.
So when I discovered and found this paragraph, also in Chapter One of A Wrinkle in Time:
“Go back to sleep,” Meg said. “Just be glad you’re a kitten and not a monster like me.” She looked at herself in the wardrobe mirror and made a horrible face, baring a mouthful of teeth covered with a brace. Automatically she pushed her glasses into position, ran her fingers through her mouse-brown hair, so that it stood wildly on end, and let a sigh almost as noisy as the wind.
…I knew one thing for sure: I was Meg Murry.
Not in every way, of course; our personal details weren’t identical (although I did have brown hair and glasses!). But oh, was it a relief to meet Meg and find all my confusion mirrored in her, all those scary, ugly, overwhelming feelings that I thought must spring from something wrong with me.
But nothing was really wrong with Meg at all – I knew that, with fierce conviction, from the second page of the book. I was fiercely on Meg’s side – and that let me slowly start to be on my own, too.
There are so many pleasures in A Wrinkle in Time, from the wildly imaginative storyline, with its travel to distant planets, to the wonderful family dynamics in Meg’s quirky, fabulous family, and the great joy of watching a baffled Meg be swept off her feet by a boy who became a huge literary crush of mine, Calvin O’Keefe.
But what really made me re-read the book over and over again, throughout my childhood and adulthood, was that fierce shock of recognition I felt as I met Meg Murray for the first time…and when it came time to write my own MG books, it’s no real surprise that my own heroine, Kat Stephenson, turned out to be a fierce, smart girl with a quirky family, a girl who doesn’t fit into her Regency-era English society any better than Meg Murry fits into her twentieth-century American society.
And secretly? Even as a thirty-five-year-old, long since escaped from fifth grade…well, I’ve never stopped identifying with those girls. I hope I never will.
To celebrate Stephanie’s post — and because it’s one of my favorite books — I’m giving away a copy of A Wrinkle in Time!
To win this book, simply comment below and tell me about your experience with A Wrinkle in Time. Have you read and loved this book? How did it influence you? What are your middle grade memories?
For an extra entry, tweet about this post and include the link to your tweet in your comment.
This giveaway begins now and ends Monday, July 23 at 11:59 a.m. EST. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter. This giveaway is U.S./Canada only.
EDITED 7/23: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winner . . .
Thank you to all commenters, and thanks to all who read this post. Stay tuned for more Middle Grade Memories posts and giveaways throughout the summer!
Love Middle Grade Memories? Check back on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the summer for more in this series!
You can view previous Middle Grade Memories posts below:
- author Marissa Burt and Where the Red Fern Grows
- author Sarvenaz Tash and The Witches
- author Jay Kristoff and The Hobbit
- author Adam-Troy Castro and Dr. Dolittle
- author Greg Leitich Smith and The Enormous Egg
- librarian Rita Meade and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- author Cristin Terrill and The Baby-Sitters Club
- author Phoebe North and A Swiftly Tilting Planet
- editor Jordan Hamessley and The Egypt Game
- agent Suzie Townsend and The Westing Game
- author Lauren Billings and Howl’s Moving Castle
- editor Zareen Jaffery and The Secret Garden
- author Nikki Loftin and Pippi Longstocking
- author Kody Keplinger and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret