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L’ENGLE, Madeleine

The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature

Daniel Hahn

L’ENGLE, Madeleine (1918–2007) American novelist 

whose first book to make an impression was Meet the Austins (1960), a family story very much in the old tradition. Teenager Vicky Austin, the novel’s narrator, is a member of a noisy, aggressively happy family, in which religion plays a large part. The story deals chiefly with the arrival of orphan Maggy, a spoilt and selfish child who has to be assimilated into the lovingness of the Austins. Meet the Austins has two sequels, The Moon by Night (1963) and The Young Unicorns (1968).

Madeleine L’Engle’s reputation derives, however, from A Wrinkle in Time (1962), in which explicit Christianity largely gives place to a more generalized good-against-evil mythology. This in turn has a number of sequels, published over the following twenty-seven years and now called the ‘Time Quintet’.

L’Engle is an uneven author, but rises to fine heights of invention, as with ‘Mrs Whatsit’ and her two Fate-like companions in A Wrinkle in Time, which won the Newbery Medal and retains a devoted following to this day.