Tesser Well: Exploring the Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle

DBR_TesserWellWishing all Deep Blue Readers a brilliant and book-filled start to 2014! We hope you enjoyed your school break and have put the recent extra cold Minnesota days to good use diving into the world of Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet.

Now that our January gathering is so near we can tell you about some of the decisions we faced when making the January selection and why our November dive ultimately became When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

Take a look first at the fellow scaling the cliff face in the photo. Would there be any advantages to  being able to “tesser” your way from the bottom to the top? Or is there something valuable in the experience of making the journey?

Those two questions bring us back to exploring When You Reach Me and the Time Quintet. The extended pause we take during the holiday season is a ready-made opportunity to dive into books that are more complex, whether because the author wrote during another era or related to topic and theme.

Originally we thought about recommending A Wrinkle in Time as a challenge dive for November, an optional companion book to When You Reach Me. As we talked further and looked at other possibilities, we realized that it was important to offer divers the time to dedicate to A Wrinkle in Time and the companion books about the Murray family in their own right. L’Engle’s books blend science, fantasy, faith, realism, family and the emotions of growing up in ways that few other authors had done before or have managed since. Rebecca Stead is one of many authors writing today for whom A Wrinkle in Time serves as a major personal influence.

image via madeleinelengle.com

image via madeleinelengle.com

The aid the guardian angels lend [Meg], Charles Wallace, and Calvin has less to do with providing magic swords or talismans than with identifying—and intensifying—the virtues the children already possess. Indeed, the crux of the book rests on Meg’s coming to understand that her father cannot save her or Charles Wallace, or make the world a less anxious place; part of the task she faces is, simply, accepting the evil that is in the world while continuing to battle against it.

– Meghan O’Rourke, Wrinkles in Time: Rereading Madeleine L’Engle at Slate.com

We’re excited to hear your impressions of these books and expect many different reactions! It’s not unusual for people — young people and adults — to struggle with these stories, to be intrigued by the adventures they contain, to describe them as a new and different reading experience to most other books they’ve encountered before, or some combination of all of those! It’s also not unusual for readers to return to the Time Quintet later in life, only to discover they relate to characters and situations in unexpected ways.

A Wrinkle in Time celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012, and Ms. L’Engle herself passed away at age 88 in 2007. There is a wealth of resources about the author and her creations on the Internet. We’ve put together some favorites here for you as companions to your Wrinkle journey:

  • The Official Madeleine L’Engle website – Read about the author’s life, including a link to the speech she gave when accepting the 1963 Newbery Award.
  • Madeleine L’Engle on audio book (Listening Library, part of Random House) – Listening to stories causes us to engage with them in different ways. Consider audio books as an alternate means of immersing yourself in the Time Quintetwith titles narrated by Hope Davis (WIT), Jennifer Ehle (WITD, STP), and Ann Marie Lee (MW, AT).
  • A Wrinkle in Time the Graphic Novel (Hero Complex at Los Angeles Times) – This interview with author / artist Hope Larson discusses her visual adaptation (2012) of A Wrinkle in Time that reached #2 on the New York Times Bestseller list of Graphic Novels and received the 2013 Eisner Award – Best Publication for Teens.
  • The Madeleine L’Engle Reread (2012, TOR.com) – Mari Ness wrote this collection of essays as part of a year-long celebration of the 50 year anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time. Ness guides you through Madeleine L’Engle’s main works and reflects on key themes — particularly physics and Christian theology — that L’Engle wove throughout.
  • Tenacity and the Tesseract (Later Bloomers) – A lovely piece that shares the story of L’Engle’s journey as an author. She finished writing A Wrinkle in Time in 1960 only to receive 26 rejection letters from publishers who thought it was too complicated for young readers. The book sat in a desk drawer for a few years before she tried again… and wound up winning the Newbery Award.
  • The Madeleine L’Engle Papers (Wheaton College) – Planning a visit to the Chicago area? Wheaton College in the west Chicago suburbs serves as home to this collection of Madeleine L’Engle’s correspondence with her readers and, for the avid fantasy reader, a desk owned by J.R.R. Tolkein and the actual wardrobe that belonged to C.S. Lewis and served as his inspiration for The Chronicles of Narnia.

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

– Madeleine L’Engle



  1. […] common in area libraries of late). Earlier this year, Deep Blue Readers dove between the pages of Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet, which bear the traits of both: physics, biology, time and space travel, unicorns, mythology, and […]

  2. […] Blue Readers has covered a lot of ground. We have a lot of fun, but we’ve selected some tough reads from the Middle Grade shelf on occasion and we respect the confidence you place in us to […]

  3. […] Deep Blue Readers has covered a lot of ground. We have a lot of fun, but we’ve selected some tough reads from the Middle Grade shelf on occasion and we respect the confidence you place in us to […]