Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Becoming Madeleine - A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time - Review


(Updated...2/7/18..) 

Becoming Madeleine: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Her Granddaughters

by 
Hardcover, 176 pages
Publication: February 6th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
ISBN 0374307644 (ISBN13: 9780374307646)



(Goodreads Blurb) This middle-grade biography explores the life and works of Madeleine L'Engle --written by her granddaughters--coming just in time for the all-new A Wrinkle in Time film, directed by Ava DuVernay.

This elegant and insightful biography of Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007) was written by her granddaughters, Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Lena Roy. Using never-before-seen archival materials that include photographs, poems, letters, and journal entries from when Madeleine was a child until just after the publication of her classic, A Wrinkle in Time, her granddaughters weave together an in-depth and unique view of the famous writer. It is a story of overcoming obstacles--a lonely childhood, financial insecurity, and countless rejections of her writing--and eventual triumph. Becoming Madeleine will speak not only to fans of the icon's work, but also to anyone interested in writing.



"A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to the child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming."
-- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet











What a perfect way to begin this biography, right? When I opened up the book and saw this staring at me, my eyes immediately welled up with tears. This quote sums up the reason I have never stopped loving A Wrinkle in Time (and the rest of the series). Meg and her family have had something to teach me at every single stage of my life -- because I am always becoming.

So who was the woman who created a world that included Meg, Charles Wallace, the "Mrs", and Naming? Who felt so passionate about the differences between "Same" and "Equal" that resonated with me in ever changing but still powerful ways on each read... Who let me travel through space and time while pondering how I could use my life to spread Light instead of Darkness...

I won't spoil all the secrets and surprises in this biography, but here are a few of my favorites:

It was easy to spot some of the personality traits Madeleine would give Meg Murry. Madeleine came across as highly intelligent but always unsure of herself. She had some of the same impulsivity (I was surprised to hear about an unkind prank she played on a classmate) and the bewilderment over how others perceived her actions. In one of her journal entries, she declares "I don't feel a bit older or wiser, but shall try to act older and wiser." That absolutely sounds like something Meg would say!

I was surprised to find out how active she'd been in theater. Her courage in pursuing her goals to write plays that would be performed in NYC was inspiring.

Throughout the biography, it was clear to see her ongoing passion for the written word. Each event in her life, each journal entry, each moment of submission or publication emphasized this point.

The moment that resonated the most for me, as a Wrinkle fan, was when she wrote in her journal about Mrs Whatsit (as she called it at the time). "If I've ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it. This is my psalm to life, my stand for life against death." (pg 143-144). I was so glad to know that even at that time, she understood the depth and power that would be A Wrinkle in Time.


A question I still have about L'Engle:
     -- This biography leads up to the successful sale of the novel that would become known as A Wrinkle in Time -- a genre bending story filled with science that inspired my adolescent mind. Yet this tale of Madeleine's life never really shows how she got interested in adding these kinds of science plot lines to her stories. Since the Meg and Charles Wallace stories ended up being my favorite, I'd love to know how she got interested in the science that filled that series.

Becoming Madeleine was a balanced mixture of photos, journal entries from young Madeleine, and writing by her granddaughters to help me get to know her better. The writing was accessible for a middle grade audience, and I can't wait to have some of the WiT fans in my classroom read about her life.


I have acquired numerous editions of A Wrinkle in Time over the years...
and I'm thrilled to have Becoming Madeleine join the stack.

UPDATE!!

I can't believe I forgot to add this amazing book that also had a book birthday on 2/6! I mean.... L'Engle and Larson.... right? I was skeptical that anyone could turn Wrinkle in Time into a graphic novel, but Hope Larson was exactly the right person for that job. My local bookstore didn't have a copy of this beauty when I went in on Tuesday, but I immediately ordered a copy and it is currently winging its way to my home, where I plan on devouring it post haste....  I highly suggest you do the same.




I received a copy of this book from the publisher for free, but my thoughts are entirely my own. 

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