I’ll never forget where I first met Meg Murry: Mrs. Beville’s 5th-grade language arts class, Aurora, Colorado, 1978. Mrs. B. always picked the best books for her classroom read-alouds: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The Cricket in Times Square. How to Eat Fried Worms.
And Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
I don’t recall whether Wrinkle was my first science-fiction novel. My dad was (is) a huge sci-fi fan, and he raised me up properly on Heinlein and McCaffrey. But those authors are firmly rooted in my middle-school and high-school memories. I think it is very possible that A Wrinkle in Time was my gateway into the soaring, wide-ranging world of science fiction.
In any event, that book grabbed me instantly, for all the reasons it has grabbed millions of readers around the world. I’d never met a hero like Meg. Awkward, kind of grumpy, often in trouble at school — this was no Flossie Bobbsey. This heroine had flaws. She wasn’t entirely likeable. But Calvin O’Keefe was, and he saw something promising in Meg. For me, this was a revelatory experience: here was a book character you couldn’t figure out right off the bat. Meg was my first glimmer of understanding that first impressions aren’t always trustworthy. Sometimes you have to take a journey with a person in order to get to know her.
And oh, what a journey it was! Traveling to other planets! Tessering — what a marvel! Can’t you just picture that drawing of the string with the ant crawling on it? It’s seared on your brain, right? And all those Camazotz kids bouncing their balls in perfect unison! Remember how your heart pounded when that one boy lost control of his ball and it went rolling into the street, and his mother totally panicked?