A Wrinkle in Time Book Club: Developing Discenrment

Did you read A Wrinkle in Time as a child? I was one of the zillions of glasses wearing, math loving, awkward young girls who read this book and loved it. So when I heard that author Madeleine L'Engle was going to be speaking at our public library, I hopped on my bike and took my 12 year old self to hear her. She's the only author I remember "meeting" in those years. Mostly I remember feeling out of my depths during the Q and A session dominated by nerdy young men talking with Ms. L'Engle about the speed of light, Einstein's theory of relativity, and the feasibility of time and space travel. In hindsight, it was good practice for me. Most of my college classmates were nerdy young men who were quantum leaps ahead of me in their scientific background knowledge.

Anyway. A Wrinkle in Time was our first Book Club selection for our summer sessions. It was fun. It was controversial. And it stretched our brains.

Before we even met, we moms had some great back and forth email discussion about whether or not this would be an appropriate choice for our 9-13 year olds. Madeleine L'Engle, a lifelong Episcopal, though hardly orthodox, did not like to be classified as a Christian author nor to have her books confined to Christian literature. Yet scripture and Christian themes show up all over this book. But are they consistent with Biblical theology? Hmmmmm.

In sorting through some of these questions, we read some helpful essays:

First Things: "Fantasy and Faith"

Redeemed Reader: "A Wrinkle in Time at Fifty Years" 

And check out this post which one of our moms found after we'd held the book club. (We're still discussing this book!) This Australian mom hits the nail on the head concerning the problems with the book:
A Peaceful Day : "A wrinkle in Wrinkle"
We decided that our children were ready for the thorny issues this book presents, and that it would be a good book to help them learn to form opinions beyond simply "I liked it" or "I didn't like it."  We want our children to learn to be discerning readers, and this seemed a good title to use in developing that ability.

Side note: Because of the problems this book has, I would not recommend it for independent reading unless there is significant discussion during and after.

Here's a summary of our day:

I. Book club discussion   (about one hour, which is easy with lively children)

 Note: There are SO many directions to go with the discussion of this book! We probably tried to take on too many at once. I'd recommend narrowing things down some. Here are some possibilities.

- Author Background

 - Genre - What is genre? Where does this fit? Science fiction? Fantasy? Both?

 - Techniques - type of conflict (external? internal?); irony (examples - Aunt Beast; 3 W's)

-  Literary allusions: Can you recognize the source of these allusions?
   1.   "When shall we three meet again,/In thunder lightning, or in rain," came Mrs. Who's voice.  (Ch. 4)

   2.   Mrs. Who seemed to evaporate until there was nothing but the glasses, and then the glasses, too, disappeared. It reminded Meg of the Cheshire Cat. (Ch.5)

   3. Meg's father says: “We were sent here for something.  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”

  4.  One white-faced man in a dark suit looked directly at the children, said, "Oh dear, I shall be late," and flickered into the building.
       "He's like the white rabbit," Meg gigled nervously. (Ch. 6)

- What's a tesseract? You might watch a video demo. Here's one and here's another.

And now for the most meaty parts of the discussion!

 - Themes, values, and messages
        What themes do you see? What does the author think is most important?
        Focus on the Family has some good discussion questions here.

- Biblical content and worldviews
  Madeleine L'Engle quotes scripture frequently.  (Ex. Rom 8:28, II Cor. 4:18, I Cor. 1:25, John 1:5, and more). How does she use scripture? Does she portray a biblical perspective on good vs. evil? What is that battle like in the Bible? In WIT?

- By far the most troubling scene in the book occurs at the end of Chapter 5 when Mrs. Who says that Jesus is a fighter against evil and then goes on to list other fighters including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Gandhi, Buddha, and Einstein. (!)  (This post, already mentioned, does the best job explaining what is really going on. It's no small matter.) Talk about this.

II. Activities:

First, we enjoyed a round-robin of Wrinkle-inspired activities:
Dress like Mrs. Whatsit

Bounce a ball in time to the beat of a metronome

Make some chemical concoctions like Mrs. Murray

And then we finished off by enjoying a snack of:

The Charles Wallace:
Sliced Bread

The Mrs. Murry:
Sliced Bread (sturdy kind like sourdough)
Cream Cheese, room temperature/softened
Liverwurst (WalMart)

The Meg Murry:
Sliced Bread
Cream Cheese, room temperature/softened OR Mayonnaise
Green Leaf Lettuce
Tomato, thickly sliced
Onion Salt
Ground pepper
The Mrs Whatsit:
Sliced Bread
Tuna salad

One more resource:

A Wrinkle in Time Novel Study - blog with ideas and links 


Jessi Thornhill said…
How fun. This is one of my childhood favorites that I'm looking forward to reading with my kiddos.

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