The iconic author began her colorful writing career with ‘The Small Rain’ in 1945 and went on to publish multiple book series and novels whose ideas have continued to inspire progress and innovative thinking in book publishing, the film industry, and society at large. There are a number of great books Madeleine L’Engle authored, and this article will analyze the very best of them.
A recipient of a number of prestigious book awards – including Newbery Medals and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is widely regarded as the greatest work of Madeleine L’Engle because of the far-reaching impact the book has had on the audience over the years.
‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is a book that belongs to the children’s books category but is considered out of the convention for its class upon release because of the variety of themes it carries. It became one of the earliest, I’m not the earliest, children-themed books that incorporated the complex subject of interplanetary, space, and time travel – not leaving out the presence of a menacing, evil alien that threatens to destroy humanity and control the entire universe.
With the complex, terrifying nature of the book’s villainous minions, one would think that the heroes would be some tough, grown-up characters. Still, instead, Madeleine L’Engle presents the readers with a team of child characters who thrilled us with their courage, intrepidness, and all-round goodness to deliver a good challenge – and ultimately a victory – on the book’s villains.
The book follows a troubled 13-year-old Meg Murry, and her adventure to rescue her father from captivity on an alien planet. She has help from her 5-year-old brother Charles Wallace, her friend Calvin O’Keefe, and three strange intergalactic women – on a journey that proves to be terrifying, spooky, and spine-chilling. The book became the first of a commercial book series titled, Time Quintet.
A Wind in the Door
Published in 1973, ‘A Wind in the Door’ is the second book in Madeleine L’Engle’s The Time Quintet series trailing ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ The book’s inventiveness, audacity, and poetic prowess were top-notch and led it to receive some great reviews from top magazines and publishing outlets, among which were The New York Times and Kirkus Reviews.
The plot follows a spinoff of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ – as it features the main characters of the book – including Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe – all of whom are now a year older than they were in ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ L’Engle also saw the need to bring in a new character in Proginoskes, improving the existing one in Mr. Jenkins, Meg’s teacher, who now becomes a formidable foe in the book, with Meg leading the charge to fight off more intergalactic villains obstructing the lives of humans on planet earth.
A Swiftly Tilting Planet
‘A Swiftly Tilting Planet’ is an award-winning book published in 1978 as the third book in Madeleine L’Engle’s impressive book series, Time Quintet. The book won the National Book Award for the children and young person category and received several noble mentions from leading publishing media outlets as well as critics alike.
The book, which sets ten years after ‘A Wind in the Door,’ unveils a reality where Meg has now married Calvin Okeefe – who’s now become a brilliant scientist attending a conference in the UK. Meg, who is heavy from expecting a child, hosts her mother-in-law for a Thanksgiving dinner as they are alerted to an imminent nuclear war threat by Mad Dog Branzillo – who becomes the new villain. After the heroes’ consortium, Charles Wallace must then travel to the past and use his power of telepathy to prevent an impending nuclear war outbreak.
‘Many Waters’ is the fourth book in Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet book series, and follows after ‘A Swiftly Tilting Planet’ in terms of reading order. The narrative is quite familiar to the Newbery Medal winner ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ as they are both sci-fi based and allegorical in nature.
For the book’s plot, the author for the first time gives leading roles to Sandy and Dennys, Meg’s brothers and the last twin children of Mr and Mrs Murry. Set in the coldest period of winter, Sandy and Dennys leave home to pay a visit to their parents’ lab.
While there, they notice a strange and exciting-looking computer-like contraption, and as they play around with it, they find themselves in a completely different realm where they meet the midget Japheth – who introduced them to other friendly but also hostile characters in the realm, even as they struggle to make their way make to earth.
An Acceptable Time
The last book of the Time Quintet series, ‘An Acceptable Time’ is a science fiction and young adult fantasy book published in 1989 and follows the life and struggles of Polyhymnia, the daughter of Meg and Calvin from ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’
The plot kicks off with Poly making a quiet visit to her grandparent Mr. and Mrs. Murry’s Connecticut house. However, the story immediately starts getting interesting with Zachary Gray – who is a familiar face.
Following an experiment performed by an eccentric bishop mixed with a lot of other events, Poly finds herself waltzing through time into a prehistoric period where she interacts with strange-looking characters – in an adventure that teaches the essence of time, humanity, and love.
A Ring of Endless Light
Published in 1980, ‘A Ring of Endless Light’ is the quartet of the Austins book series and follows a teen-inspired fictional book by Madeleine L’Engle. The book was so good that Disney made a tv show of it, even though it didn’t quite make waves like its book counterpart.
The plot centers around the life of the gifted Vicky Austins, and her ability to communicate telepathically with dolphins. Vicky has struggles of her own, and particularly devastating for her is the illness and eventual death of her grandfather – which nearly breaks her.
However, Vicky has two clear special abilities, one in writing poetry and the other in non-verbally communicating with orcas and cold sea creatures – particularly dolphins. These talents, coupled with meeting some new friends, would eventually turn around her life of sadness and frustration into something adventurous, interesting, and worthwhile.
Another book of L’Engle’s that had been adapted to the big screen. Released in 1951 and the first in its series, ‘Camilla Dickinson’ is a romance that centers around the main character Camilla.
15-year-old Camilla has her near-perfect life disrupted, watching the marriage of her loving parents fall apart. She can’t seem to be at peace with the reality that her parents might separate, but as one thing leads her to befriend a boy who has shared experiences, she is forced to grow up and think more openly about life.
The Arm of the Starfish
From the O’Keefe Family series, ‘The Arm of the Starfish’ follows a mystery thriller introducing independently for the first time, the O’keefe family. The plot covers the travel experience of a brilliant student, Adam Eddington, as he relocates to the island of Gaea, Portugal, to take up an assistantship role and work under a globally acclaimed scientist, Dr. Okeefe, who is researching organ regeneration.
Adam’s flight to Portugal is onboarded by some strange characters, among whom include Canon Tallis and Polly Okeefe, a redheaded 12-year-old daughter of Calvin Okeefe. The mystery fully unravels when Polly suddenly disappears from the airplane while using the restroom. Adam has a change of plan. He must find and rescue Polly, but not without the grip of Typhone Cutter, a powerful billionaire, who’s also father to Kali (Carolyn Cutter), the woman he has feelings for.
Meet the Austins
‘Meet the Austins’ is the leading novel in Madeleine L’Engle’s The Austins series. The book was published in 1960 and proved to be one of the first real successes the author saw throughout her literary career.
It follows the Austins family experience, focusing particularly on Vicky Austin and her siblings. An upset arises when Vicky’s uncle – along with his friend Hamilton – dies in a plane crash. The Austins are forced to adopt a spoiled Maggy Hamilton, the daughter of one of the crash victims.
Her adoption into the family causes a major upset in the lives of the Austins and would unfold several unexpected dramas, which the author interestingly dishes out in episodes.
Dragons in the Waters
‘Dragons in the Waters’ is the second book in the O’keefe family book series and was published in 1976 under the nursery mystery category of the adult fiction genre.
The book headlines Simon Phair-Reinier as the frontal character, but also features Polly O’keefe, her parents Meg Murry O’keefe and Calvin Okeefe – in a thriller that got several good reviews, particularly one from Kirkus Reviews, which find the book the ‘most satisfying’ of all L’Engle’s works.
How many total books did L’Engle write?
Following an illustrious writing career, Madeleine L’Engle wrote more than fifty books in all – including her novels, plays, series, biographies, and short stories.
In what book series is ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?
‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is the first book in L’Engle’s Time Quintet book series.
What is the reading order of L’Engle’s Time Quintet book series?
To fully understand L’Engle’s Time Quintet series, readers must progress in this sequence: ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ to ‘A Wind in the Door’ to ‘A Swiftly Tilting Planet’ to ‘Many Waters’ to ‘An Acceptable Time.’
How many book series did L’Engle publish?
L’Engle has at least five book series – including Vigneras, Camilla Dickinson, Austin Family, Time Quintet, and the O’Keefe Family.