Posted by: Andy | April 18, 2008

book reviews: Wrinkle in Time, Wind in the Door, Swiftly Tilting Planet

by: Madeleine L’Engle

Yes, I read 3 young adult fiction books over the weekend last weekend. Out of that whole huge stack of books I re-acquired recently, there was nothing else I really felt like re-reading yet. OK, that’s not true – I wanted to read the Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony, but I’m missing the 1st & 3rd book. I also wanted to re-read the Lost Swords series, but I’m missing books 1,4 & 6. So in both cases I’m stuck waiting there a little bit.

So I figured I’d go with something really light, and also preview them to see if they were something I’d want Z to read someday.

One thing I totally forgot about these books is how obviously religious (Christian) they are – much more so than say, the Narnia books. Yet I found out recently that these books were banned in Christian bookstores for “offering an inaccurate portrayal of God and nurturing in the young an unholy belief in myth and fantasy.” Evidently Wrinkle is one of the most banned books in the country. WTF? Man, some people just don’t know a good thing when they see one. Kids like myth and fantasy (it’s part of how you get them hooked on religion 😉 ) – it’s good for the growth of their imagination, and it is most certainly not going to send them to hell (even if you believe in it) to fantasize about aliens and flying centaurs. I’m curious why the Narnia books didn’t suffer this same fate – they certainly had all kinds of fantasy creatures and the like. I’m guessing it’s because a) C.S. Lewis was a household name (was he at the time) and b) Christians in general don’t agree with her specific theology (which doesn’t come out in the books really at all) which includes the belief in universal salvation & Christian universalism. It’s a shame they let doctrinal disagreements drive her out of the bookstores, because Christian lit could really, really, really, really, really, really, really use more quality books. Especially on the sci-fi/fantasy front. Not that I’m encouraging or hoping for an increase in evangelical texts for youngsters, I just think the vast majority of Christian fiction is horrendous horse shite.

Anyway, religious stuff aside (and in spite of) the books are still pretty good and, I think, engaging for child to read. There’s lots of thought provoking stuff about conformity and beauty and time travel and biology – lots of science bits thrown in to make readers curious. The characters are also likeable enough, and all have noticeable flaws that they, in addition young readers, can learn from.

What did annoy me was the bit about Indians in the 3rd book, it seems to fall into a “noble savage” trap with Indians flying around all peaceful on giant eagles and such. And what’s with the Indian princesses (didn’t we just talk about this??)? Just once, could someone marry a regular Indian woman? You spend a page telling us how everyone is equal, and even the medicine man type guy is no better than everyone else, then all of a sudden (albeit several generations later), people are calling her a princess? If everyone is equal, how the hell do you have a princess? Whatever. I’m sure if she was a writer today and writing this same book she could say that the “princess” label illustrates the degeneration and ignorance of following generations. But she’s not, and it doesn’t, it illustrates her ignorance.

All in all though I’d say they are pretty decent books for a young reader.

Oh, and yes I know my reviews don’t really read like reviews so much as whatever I was thinking about in semi-relation to the material when I got around to writing the review. If you can’t deal with that, you should probably be in some kind of special home. Maybe with wheelchair bingo or padded walls.

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Responses

  1. A) I remember loving these books.
    B) Hilarious stuff about the natives.
    C) I’d rather not get my child into “myth”, since that’s not how I classify my beliefs. Letting them interpret it that way – even to “hook them” – wouldn’t really be encouraging a personal, grounded and above all sincere Christian walk. As a Christian parent.

  2. I wasn’t implying that parent of that mindset let them think it was myth, in fact they would do the opposite. My somewhat implied point was that I think children are inherently attracted to the mystique and “bigness” of the trappings of myth. Gods of all shape and sizes, dragons, unicorns, etc.

    I was implying that a parent of the relevant persuasion would/could play upon the child’s natural attraction to fantastical in order to get them into religion. And, in fact, this is a part of what I think most religions do (consciously or not) as part of early childhood indoctrination.

    I don’t mind if my children find religion, but I’d rather them find it on their own (as I did) when they are old enough to make their own decisions about things, not simply because they’ve done it every day of their growing life and the mental ritual of it is a part of them. Of course, this is easy to say coming from outside, someone inside probably wouldn’t feel that way, and would be involved in the rituals themselves and thus would expect their children to be as well.

  3. Again, my understanding that my child would have to make the decision for themselves would make it unnecessary to try and “trick” them or “indoctrinate” them. It’s the reason you don’t baptize children – you can’t make that decision for them and they have to know what they are saying/doing. It is my responsibility to introduce him to it, just as every parent “forces” their child to go to school until such an age as that child can (legally or without the gov’t noticing) decide they are no longer interested in school/education. At which point, it’s on them. You still tell them what’s right.

  4. Just thinking about the biblical parables – they weren’t real stories either. They were made-up tales used to provide an allegory for Christian beliefs. Jesus wasn’t saying that he *was* a bridegroom, he was using it as a comparison. Just as L’Engle’s and Lewis’ books provide Christian concept and morals within a setting that makes them more easily understood, especially by younger readers.

    I’m not a believer, but I do see the connection here.


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