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The Five Best Children’s Book Series (#3) Madeleine L’Engles Time Quartet/Quintet

June 28, 2013

(3.)  Madeline L’Engle’s Time Quartet/Quintet

Many people have heard of Madeleine L’Engles Newbery award-winning novel A Wrinkle in Time but not as many people know that it is actually the first book of a quartet/quintet. 

(The quartet/quintet debate is due to the fact that the fifth book, An Acceptable Time, has a second generation protagonist–the daughter of one of the protagonists in the first four books who is technically a part of the O’Keefe family, not the Murry family.  Madeleine L’Engle wrote extensively about three fictional families {the Austens, the Murry’s and the O’Keefe’s} and many of her characters cross over into her other books.  In a family tree published in Many Waters, L’Engle divided her major characters into two categories–“chronos”  and “kairos”–two Greek terms for different concepts of time. Rather than taking up the rest of this post trying to explain various arguments over why this series is a quartet or quintet, I will instead refer you to this wikipedia page, which may help dispel any confusion.  However, if you put any stock in my personal opinion, I did not enjoy An Acceptable Time–the story becomes rather tedious–and I do think that leaving it out diminishes the series in any way.)

Time Quartet Box Set

Time Quartet Box Set

The first three books of this series, A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in The Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet remain to this day three of my absolute favorite books.  All three are a unique and brilliant blending of fantasy, science fiction, and spirituality.  For non-Christian parents who may be wary of having their children read a book by a “Christian” author you might be interested to note that Madeleine L’Engle got just as much, if not more, criticism from her Christian critics as she did from those who thought her books were too religious.

…being a bestselling author did not put L’Engle beyond criticism. She was attacked for being too religious by the most secular of critics while also being one of the authors most banned from Christian schools and libraries that regarded her brand of religion as deeply suspect. She was also condemned in print with assertions such as: “Madeleine L’Engle teaches universalism in her books and denigrates organized Christianity and promotes an occultist world view”….[but the] children for whom her books were intended have probably rarely worried about L’Engle’s theological views…

-Julia Eccleshare, The Guardian, Monday 1 October 2007

As a child I certainly never noticed or cared that the books were “Christian” works.  I only noticed that they were brilliant works of fantasy.  And did I mention that the books have elements of science fiction?  Madeleine L’Engle was a huge science geek!  (If you want your children to have a grasp of quantum mechanics then you have discovered the right series!)  The Time Quartet books seamlessly blend elements of science fiction and fantasy.  The Murry children travel to different planets (including a two-dimensional planet), inside the mitochondria of Charles Wallace’s cells, and back and forth in time.  They become friends with witches, unicorns, snakes, stars, and dragons (or rather, “dragons”).  They rescue their father from an evil planet, cure a deadly disease, prevent nuclear war, and learn about the joyful harmonious dancing of the galaxies.  Is there any way I could have possibly NOT wanted to read these books?

Time Quintet Box Set

Time Quintet Box Set

Madeleine L’Engle writes of an exquisitely beautiful universe– torn but not destroyed by an ongoing battle between good and evil–continually renewed by the ties which reach across time and space to bind all living beings together in glorious harmony.  It is a universe which children will recognize in their hearts as awesome and majestic, but the books are grounded in the firmly stable (yet eccentric and brilliant) Murry family.   The child characters in these books are extremely intelligent and gifted in various ways, but they still deal with the problems of normal children.  Meg feels hopelessly awkward and plain and despite her intelligence struggles through school.   Charles Wallace is bullied by children at school who sense that he is much smarter than they can comprehend. Calvin doesn’t fit in with his own emotionally abusive family so he seeks comfort in the Murry household.  I loved these characters fiercely and I wanted to be a part of the Murry family.  I wanted to move into their rambling farmhouse to spend cold and stormy evenings sipping hot cocoa, cuddling with the ever-present kittens…and solving complicated equations while discussing particle physics.  I hope that more generations of children will love the Murry family as much as I did.

I firmly recommend these books to all children, regardless of their religion, faith, ect. However, families who are not of the Christian or Jewish faiths may want to steer clear of the fourth book, Many Waters, in which the Murry twins Sandy and Dennys accidentally travel back to the time of the Old Testament, where they meet Noah and become involved in a complex story involving Seraphim and Nephilim.  This book is a bit more mature and complex than the first three books in the series and (like the later books of the Harry Potter series), you may want to wait to introduce Many Waters until your children are a little bit older.  As for the the fifth book, An Acceptable Time, as mentioned above I did not particularly enjoy it.  But if your child becomes a huge fan of the Time Quartet books I would say go ahead and read this last book in which Meg Murry’s daughter Polly spends a summer at her grandparent’s farmhouse and has an unexpected adventure.

Fave Book in the Series: #2 A Wind in the Doora wind in the door

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2017 12:09 pm

    This is a neat explanation of the quartet/quintet thing. This series of posts is cool too.

    • January 19, 2017 4:14 pm

      Thank you very much!

      • January 19, 2017 10:35 pm

        oh my goodness you haven’t posted since 2013? did you move onto another blog or something? you need to keep writing this is good stuff!

  2. January 19, 2017 10:51 pm

    Yeah I tend to get really into a particular hobby or project for a while and then abandon it abruptly, Lol. I may have to start blogging again, but there is also a surplus of book bloggers on the internet so it is hard to be noticed. Thank you very much for the compliments!

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