The summer I remember as magical wasn’t defined by sleepaway camp, a teenage crush under a boardwalk, or even my girls’ first steps in the ocean. My magical summer was in 1978. That was the year I read A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle.
I was 11, on the cusp of sixth grade. MTV didn’t exist yet, so I spent my days at the pool, my nights in a book. Sadly, there’s never again been a time when I’ve read with such feverish abandon. (“Elizabeth, turn off that light and go to sleep!”) By middle school, reading would be lost to me as a pastime. Friends and boys, TV and music, sports—then serious study and work—would take its place for years.
But that summer, I pedaled to the library on Tuesdays (why Tuesday I haven’t a clue now) to fill my bike basket with every Newbery Medalist I could find. That’s how L’Engle’s science fiction fantasy found its way to me.
I devoured it. It had a fifth-dimension tesseract, a brother who could read minds, a missing father, a “happy medium,” even a schoolgirl crush. It dealt with themes of social conformity and the personification of good and evil. Hey, nothing less than the fate of the universe was at stake! Part of my joy was that I could understand the thing: “You have to write the book that wants to be written,” L’Engle is quoted on her website. “And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
Maybe that’s why A Wrinkle in Time stuck with me. When you’re 11, anything that explosively imaginative owns the season.