Thursday, September 13, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle Passes On

One of the greatest authors of books for young adults passed on last Thursday, September 6. Madeleine L’Engle was 88 years of age. She is perhaps best know for the classic A Wrinkle in Time.

Madeleine L'Engle was born in New York City on November 28, 1918. Her father was writer Charles Wadsworth Camp, author of such works as the nonfiction History of the 305th Field Artillery and the novel House of Fear. Her mother, Madeleine Camp, was a pianist. L'Engle took an interest in writing at a very young age, writing her first story at the age of five. By eight she was keeping a journal. As a child she attended a number of different boarding schools. She attended Smith College.

Madeleine L'Engle published her first novel, The Small Rain in 1945. The book was semi-autobiographical in nature. She followed it with the novel Isla in 1946 and Camilla Dickinson in 1951. She published novels regularly between 1957 and 1962. It was that year that the work for which she would be remembered, A Wrinkle in Time was published. Amazingly, the book had been rejected 26 times before it was finally accepted by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. It won the Newberry Medal and has been in print ever since. She followed A Wrinkle in Time up with several more books set in the same world, spanning two generations.

L'Engle was also known for her series centred around the Austin family, beginning with Meet The Austins in 1960 and followed by four more books. Among her other series were the Katherine Forrester series (the first book of which was The Small Rain, the Crosswicks Journals and The Genesis Trilogy. She also published several individual novels, as well as volumes of trilogy and such nonfiction works as Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols in Antarctica and other Spiritual Places and The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth.

I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was junior high and immediately fell in love with the book. I immediately read the next two books in the series featuring the Murry family, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. They were among the best books I had ever read. She was a truly gifted writer, giving her works a sense of wonder lacking in much young adult fiction. She was also capable of explaining scientific concepts in such a way that the layman could understand. Anyone who has read A Wrinkle in a Time will understand what a tesseract is. She was easily one of the best authors of children's books of the Twentieth Century. And I have no doubt people will continue to read her books a hundred years from now.

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