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A Wrinkle in Time

by Madeleine L'Engle

The Book Club Novel Guide outlines a complete theme-based unit with Book Club lesson plans focusing on A Wrinkle in Time.

Buy the Novel Buy the Book Club Novel Guide

Below you will find a synopsis, further reading materials, discussion topics, and reviews that you might find useful during your teaching of A Wrinkle in Time.

A Synopsis

Meg and her brilliant but eccentric younger brother, Charles Wallace, share adventures as they travel through time and space to rescue their father, a scientist. Their father had been doing research on “tessering,” a form of space and time travel, when he disappeared. With the help of three beings who call themselves Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, and a new friend, Calvin O’Keefe, they “tesser” to the planet of Camazotz. There the children’s father is imprisoned behind the Black Thing, an evil force in the universe. The Black Thing is helped by the power of IT, a disembodied brain that controls all the people of Camazotz.

On Camazotz, Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin fight against the power of IT. Charles Wallace voluntarily succumbs to IT to get information, while Meg works to free her father. Meg succeeds. Her father then tessers Meg and Calvin off the planet. Unfortunately, Charles Wallace is left behind. After this narrow escape from the cold power of IT, Meg faces the enormous physical and moral challenge of returning to Camazotz to save Charles Wallace. Because of her love for her brother, she goes, and by expressing this love, she is able to free him.

Through Meg’s voice, author Madeleine L’Engle weaves a powerful narrative. L’Engle combines the realism of Meg’s emotional journey with the fantastic world of tessering, IT, and the Black Thing.

Further Reading and Links

The following sites can be used to support and enrich the Book Club unit for A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.

About the Author and the Book

  • Madeleine L'Engle — The author's official site includes news, multimedia activities and resources, a bibliography of L'Engle's work, links to further information about the author, and contact information.
  • A Conversation with Madeleine L'Engle — In this interview, Madeleine L'Engle discusses several aspects of A Wrinkle in Time and offers her perspective on many topics including creativity, heroes, and themes of her works.
  • Interview with the Author — Watch an interview with Madeleine L'Engle on this PBS site, it also includes a transcript and pictures.
  • Madeleine L'Engle's Acceptance Speech — The text of Madeleine L'Engle's speech upon the occasion of being rewarded the Margaret Edwards Award in June of 1998 is printed here. The author's voice is clearly heard as she shares her thoughts about her fictional characters and the values that are the foundation for her writing.
  • Macmillan Publisher — The publisher has compiled information about the book and author, including multiple reviews.
  • The New York Times Review — Read a review of the book A Wrinkle in Time published by the popular newspaper.
  • Naomi's Review of A Wrinkle in Time — A 15-year-old reader's review of the book. This is part of the SmartGirl website, where your students (girls or boys) can submit their own book reviews.

Explore Space

  • Solar System Simulator — Visitors to this site will feel like they are in space because of their ability to view various planets and their satellites from different locations in the solar system. The images of Earth as seen from other planets are awe-inspiring and recreate the feelings that Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace must have had when they viewed Earth from Uriel.
  • The Nine Planets — A fascinating tour of the solar system is supported by comprehensive, interesting, and detailed facts.
  • The Milky Way — This site includes vivid images and description of the Milky Way and additional explanation of relevant terms such as galaxy, clusters, and nebulae.

Learn Facts about Space Exploration and Travel

  • NASA Kids' Club — Visitors can access many fun and informative sites about various aspects of space from this index page. The contents of these pages are specifically geared towards kids.
  • NASA — Visitors can access many informative sites about various aspects of space from this index page. Including pages geared towards Educators, and Students.
  • Starchild Space Travel — This site is listed on the NASA Sites index but worth mentioning for its own merits. Facts about the history of space travel, Apollo 11, Space Station Mir, and shuttle missions are given in a couple of formats, each designed to appeal to a different age group.
  • Windows to the Universe: Kids' Space — Kids' Space is a valuable resource for students investigating anything to do with space or space travel. Commonly asked questions, ranging from the astronauts' living arrangements to the age of stars, are answered, and by posing questions, visitors can search the archives for additional facts. Other options including tours of the Space Art Museum and science-related activities are offered to the visitor as well.
  • Searching for Life in Other Solar Systems (pdf) — This scholarly article offers some interesting facts about the way scientists look for life on other planets and how better telescopes are the key to locating evidence of this life.

Find Out about Mathematical Principles

  • The Tesseract — This site explains the concept of the tesseract discussed in A Wrinkle in Time.

Investigate the Lives of Great Men and Women

  • Biography — Information and brief biographical sketches describing the lives and works of great scientists, philosophers, economists, historians, and writers are given on this site with more in-depth looks at a selected few.
  • Leonardo da Vinci — The Boston Museum of Science sponsors this site, which explores many facets of Leonardo da Vinci's work as both inventor and artist.

Big Theme Questions

How can our weaknesses become our strengths? When might our strengths be weaknesses?

When are risks justified? When are they foolish?

Why is conformity appealing to many people? What are the dangers of conformity?

What might you learn about how to live from real-life and fictional heroes?

Outline of Lesson Plan | Discussion Topics | Writing Prompts

The following section can be used to get discussions started in your classroom. It is based on the Lesson Plan within the Book Club Novel Guide for A Wrinkle in Time. The Lesson Plan includes blackline masters for the students that support the writing prompts. The writing prompts provided are meant as suggestions only. As students become more comfortable with the Book Club format, they will certainly have ideas and questions that go beyond the prompts. Consider giving students “free choice” as a log option. Book Club Reading Logs help students respond to literature and organize ideas as they participate in Book Club.

Chapter 1 | Literary Elements: Elements of Fantasy

  • Write about your own experiences with weather and storms.
  • Write about the IQ testing that Meg and Charles Wallace had. Do you think IQ tests are good, bad, or both?
  • What events in Chapter 1 are realistic? What events give you clues that this is a fantasy story?
  • What other predictions do you have about what will happen?

Chapter 2 | Literary Elements: Author’s Craft—Character Development

  • Discuss in detail one of the characters you’ve met so far.
  • Choose wonderful words from this chapter and define them from context or by looking them up.

Chapter 3 | Language Conventions: Book Club Talk

  • Describe the unusual ways of speaking that Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit have. Write a short dialogue that imitates their speech.
  • Compare or contrast yourself with Meg, Calvin, or Charles Wallace.
  • Are Meg and the others going on a quest? If so, describe what you know about it so far.

Chapter 4 | Literary Elements: Descriptive Language

  • Draw a picture inspired by something you’ve read in the novel.
  • Summarize what happens in “the trip.”
  • Record interesting or confusing words from this chapter and previous ones and explore their meanings.

Chapter 5 | Literary Elements: Elements of Fantasy, Revisited

  • How does L’Engle use the illustrations to add to the story?
  • What do you think of time travel? Why?
  • Do you agree with Mrs. Whatsit when she says that “we can’t take credit for our talents. It’s how we use them that counts”?
  • What ideas about fighting evil are suggested by A Wrinkle in Time?

Chapter 6 | Comprehension: Fifth Dimension, Time Travel; Compare and Contrast

  • Who is “The Happy Medium”?
  • Is there such a thing as a happy medium in life?
  • What have you learned about the past of Mrs. Whatsit?
  • Describe what you think it might be like to be a star.
  • What more have you learned about the children’s quest?
  • Compare the town of Camazotz to your own town.
  • Describe Charles’s feelings about Camazotz. How do you feel about the town? How are Charles’s feelings different from Meg’s or yours?
  • Draw a picture of Camazotz.

Chapter 7 | Comprehension: Reviewing Content and Making Predictions

  • How well did we predict? Where will the story go now?
  • What would you do now if you were in the children’s predicament?
  • Who is “The Man with the Red Eyes”?

Chapter 8 | Language Conventions: Fluency Review

  • Write a description of IT. (You may choose to do a character map, an illustration, or both.)
  • Imagine that someone in your own family is trapped somewhere and you must rescue him or her. How would you feel? How would you plan the rescue of your family member?
  • How have the advice and gifts from the ladies helped or guided the children?

Chapter 9 | Comprehension: Sequencing

  • You are a citizen of Camazotz. What is it like to be a member of this community?
  • Focus on one character in the book. Draw a picture of this character, make a character chart, or write a description of this character.
  • Add to or revise your visual interpretation of IT.
  • Write about tessering. How is it done? What does it feel like? Why do you suppose it feels that way? Would you like to tesser? Why or why not?

Chapter 10 | Comprehension: Making Predictions from Text Features

  • What does “Absolute Zero” mean?
  • Draw a picture of the three beasts that approach Meg, Calvin, and Mr. Murry.
  • Compare Meg’s relationship with her father to your relationship with your own parents. Do you understand her feelings?

Chapter 11 | Comprehension: Analyzing Characters

  • How will Meg, Calvin, and Father get Charles Wallace back and return to Earth?
  • Continue the discussion about Aunt Beast that we started in the lesson.
  • Write about how your experiences with books and movies about time travel have influenced your experience with this book.

Chapter 12 | Response to Literature: Author’s Purpose

  • Write your thoughts about Madeleine L’Engle’s purposes in writing this book, using today’s lesson and conversations from previous days to support your ideas.
  • L’Engle leaves many blanks for us to fill in (like how it’s been back on Earth and what the Black Thing looks like now). Write about one of these “blanks,” using what you know to make educated guesses.
  • Discuss your feelings and thoughts about the ending of the book and about the book as a whole.
  • Choose unusual or unfamiliar words from the last few chapters of the book to complete the list of wonderful words.

Planet Book Club's Review

We would like to introduce Planet Book Club's student book reviewers: Lilly and Carmen.

Note to Our Readers: You will notice that the book gets two reviewers. Why? Because we believe two opinions are generally more helpful than one opinion. Remember that people have completely unique sets of experiences that shape how they think and feel about things. Something else to keep in mind: Even perfectly pleasant human beings can have cranky days, lazy days, and confused days. Let's face it—we can't be thoughtful, clear-headed, and fair every moment of our lives. Our reviewers, though friendly and occasionally brilliant, are only human. So, to be fair to you and to each book, we always give two points of view. That way, if one reviewer is having a bad day and seems completely out to lunch, you can perhaps connect with the other reviewer. Got it? Good.

Knowing something about the reviewers might help you to understand their opinions. So, let's get to know them:

Planet Book Club Reviewer Lilly

My name is Lilly. I like to play soccer, hike, and be outside. When I can't go outside because of bad weather I like to read a good mystery or adventure story. My younger brother is hearing impaired so I have become good at using sign language. I think I would like to work as a special education teacher someday. Of course, I have dreams of playing soccer in the Olympic games. We'll see what happens. But in the meantime you can read what I have to say about A Wrinkle in Time...

Lilly: There's a reason why A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle has been a favorite for so many years. Who doesn't like a good old-fashioned struggle between good and evil? Actually, "old-fashioned" might not be the right word. The good guys aren't mighty-looking warriors but kids you could picture standing behind you in the lunch line or daydreaming and drooling in your math class. The bad guy is a bossy, cranky brain ... without a body. I don't know about you, but I haven't seen many of these. However, such strange creatures are common in the world L'Engle has created. That's what is great about reading this book—you never know who or what you're going to meet next.

The main characters—Meg Murry and her brilliant younger brother Charles Wallace—find themselves traveling through different dimensions of time and space. Their mission is to free their scientist father from the clutches of that nasty brain. Three peculiar beings whom the children meet one stormy evening push them along on this journey. The children are frightened and doubtful, but they love and miss their father and want to help him. How do they travel? Where do they go? Do they find their father? You will get the answers to these questions when you read this exciting book. Not only will you encounter colorful characters and hold your breath waiting to read what happens on every page—but you will also learn something about people and the power of love, friendship, and family. You'll look at yourself and others in new ways. You might even take a closer look at one of those drooling kids in math class. What special talents might this person have? Who are the people who love this kid? Better yet, you might look in the mirror, admire your own uniqueness, and imagine all that you can accomplish.

Planet Book Club Reviewer Carmen

Hello, my name is Carmen. I'm president of my own online club—Future Physicists of America. My other interests include collecting magnets, playing badminton, training my pet mice, and swing dancing. I admit—I'm difficult to please. I hate clutter and I want everything to make sense. If it can't be explained by a graph or spread sheet, it probably won't interest me. Well that's me in a nutshell. So let's get to the task at hand, here is what I think about the book...

Carmen: I am troubled. I thought A Wrinkle in Time was a scientific work. I hoped for something that would explore the nature of space and time. Instead, I found a book about kids on some kind of foolish journey. I'm not a person who likes silliness. My parents say reading materials should instruct, NOT entertain. Yet in this book ordinary kids zip all over the universe, people disappear into the thin air without reason, and ridiculous creatures appear on practically every page. The book also has wild ideas—that love is a powerful force and that imperfections are actually good. Imagine! It is really strange!

I am willing, however, to give the book a chance. The writing is decent and the book provides some practical instruction in physics. The following changes will improve the book:

  • Change the title. Perhaps the title should be A Lesson in Understanding Time. This title is more serious. The word wrinkle calls forth thoughts of disorder, and there is order in the universe.
  • Add more practical instruction. We would have a stronger understanding of Albert Einstein's theories on space and time if the book gave more direct instruction. As it is now, the story interrupts the instruction. Perhaps most of the action of the novel can take place in a science classroom. Most discussions between characters will center around Einstein's theories on space and time.
  • Keep foolishness to a minimum. Perhaps the entire journey could be rewritten as a brief nightmare brought on by late-night snacking. In the original book the children make sandwiches and cocoa in the middle of the night, just before they go on the journey. Who wouldn't have outrageous nightmares after eating chocolate, tomatoes, and liverwurst in the middle of the night?
  • Involve Readers. The last chapter of the book could be a final exam that the main characters take in their class. Readers should be forced to take the test, too.