Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle

The library branch where I now work has, for the last few years, suffered from a ridiculously quick turnover of youth services librarians. As a result, the collection was in truly dismal shape when I got there last September. One of the most gaping holes was an almost total lack of Madeleine L'Engle books (and don't get me started on the condition, or lack thereof, of the L.M. Montgomery, Gordon Korman, Lloyd - just 1 book- Alexander, Tamora Pierce, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, E.B. White, and other classics collections...). As a result we just received a huge shipment of Madeleine L'Engle paperbacks.

Now, the only book of hers that I currently own is A Wrinkle in Time. I think I used to have some of the other Meg and Charles Wallace books, but I think my younger brothers pinched them. I read her voraciously as a kid, but haven't looked at many of her children's and YA books recently - I read some of her adult stuff last year and it was also really good. So, I decided to bring some of them home to read before putting them out on the shelves.

The first one I read was A House Like a Lotus, which is one of the Polly O'Keefe (daughter of Meg and Calvin) stories. The one and only other time I read this was when I was in grade 7. It was the first book I ever read that featured pre-marital sex, and I remember being horrified that it wasn't at all romantic. I used the book for a book report and the teacher, who had clearly not read the book, was upset, because that particular edition listed the reading level as 5.8 which was obviously too easy for a kid in grade 7 enriched English. However, the content must have been beyond innocent prudish suburban raised me back then, because I was surprised this time to find that the book also included discussion of homosexuality, possible rape, pedophilia, child abuse, and more. That went over my head back in the day! On the whole, while I still think this is a good read, I prefer the more metaphysical books in Madeleine L'Engles collection.

The second one I read was Moon By Night. This is another of her more realistic books, but this one is about the Austin Family, and told from the point of view of Vicky Austin. Vicky is a teenager camping across the U.S. and Canada(!) with her family, experiencing all the angst and joys of being a teen. She meets a boy, feels trapped, questions her religion, sulks, has mood swings, experiences emotional awakenings, and etc. I don't remember this one from my youth, I must have missed it. On the other hand it is definitely not one of Madeleine L'Engle's best attempts, so I might just have forgotten about it. As far as the Austins go, I much prefer The Young Unicorns. The neat thing is that Vicky's boy in this is called Zachary Grey, which is the name of the boy Polly meets in Athens in A House Like A Lotus. So cool how characters (minor and major) travel from book to book in the L'Engle universe!

Next I'm venturing back into the Murry books - I just love Meg, Charles Wallace, Sandy, Denys, and Calvin. They are great characters. I also love the name "Madeleine L'Engle" - it is kind of magical, and rolls off the tongue very nicely.

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