Banned Book Week: A Wrinkle In Time

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that I didn't read this book until last summer. I know, I know. Don't throw Coke cans. I had no idea it was one of the most challenged books from 1990 - 2000. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why.

So I did some research. Here's what I found:

“Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle, winner of a Newbery Award, was challenged at a Polk City, Florida elementary school (1985) by a parent who believed that the story “promotes witchcraft, crystal balls and demons.” It was challenged in the Anniston, Alabama schools (1990) because of the book’s listing the name of Jesus Christ together with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists and religious leaders when referring to those who defend earth against evil. It has been challenged for “sending a mixed signal about good and evil.”

This fascinates me. I'll admit that I rarely read for more than pleasure, and I actually enjoy books that make me examine my own views about good and evil, right and wrong, etc. I believe books can provide a safe place for such exploratory thoughts to begin.

A few words about censorship of books. I do believe that parents have the right to shield their children from anything they believe their child isn't ready to see/read/hear/taste. I work with 800 different kids on a weekly basis. Some of them can handle what others cannot. Parents have the right to screen the entertainment their children are exposed to, including books.

That said, I do not believe those same parents should be able to tell me what my children can or cannot be exposed to. I should get to make that decision myself, using my own belief system, my own set of values.

And that's where the line blurs.

I read A Wrinkle in Time and loved it. The crystal balls that are supposed to signify witchcraft. The time travel. The mixing of the name of Jesus Christ in with artists. I didn't even give it a second thought.

It's a great story. I passed it along to my 12-year-old. He read it. I don't think it shook his religious foundation. I don't think it made him question the line between good and evil.

But if it did, wouldn't that be a great way for us to have a conversation about what we believe? About what we believe to be wrong and what we believe to be right?

And anything that can get kids talking to their parents is a win in my book. And to me, that's what banned book week is about: The courage to have hard, gut-wrenching conversations with your children. Or within yourself.

The great thing about using books to do this is the situation feels removed. It's not something that happened to you, or to them. It could. But it didn't. And that allows for conversation, reflection, and evaluation of one's life.

That's why I celebrate banned book week.

What about you? Have you read a book that opened up a conversation with someone? What book? Have you read something that made you stop and examine something in your life? A belief?

And aren't those good things?


Amanda Gaume said...

I can't believe this book has been banned in some schools! It's such a great book. I remember one of my grade school teachers reading this book out loud to us.

And yes, I do believe all those things (about some books making you examine something in your life) are good things! That's why I read.

Angie Smibert said...

I was living in Florida--not too far from Polk County, which just outside Orlando--when the Harry Potter books first came out. I was shocked to see big mega churches hosting seminars on the evils of Harry Potter.

It's a good thing these folks didn't read any of Phillip Pullman's books.

Mandy P.S. said...

A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favorite books of all time. My mother read it aloud to me when I was five. I read it for myself in the fourth grade, and I reread it all the time. I love it.

And as a Christian, never once did I think to challenge this book as blurring the lines between good and evil. Seems to me the lines are pretty clear. Sure Jesus is listed with artists and philosophers, but He's still listed as Good. (And might I add He's listed first, as the first one the kids thing of as the champion of good--yeah I've read this book too many times. lol). IT is evil...I really don't see the confusion. But then again, I've read a lot of "evil" books, like Harry Potter. And you know what? None of it has caused me to fall into witchcraft. I still believe in my loving and awesome God.

Reading books that make you stop and think about your faith or a belief help you to know what you believe. Isn't that what we want? For kids to actually really believe? How else are they going to do that except by examining their beliefs? So I concur. Having books that make you stop and examine is a good thing.

Kelly Polark said...

I've read that book so many times as a child. Love it! I even wrote a short chapter book with similar themes in fifth grade (which I wish I kept!).
I do agree that each parent individually should decide what their child can handle.
I do censor my children. I let my 11 yr old watch only certain PG13 movies after I view them first. I read his Guitar World before giving it to him and take out pages that refer to drugs or the fbomb. But if a truly good story has these themes, I'll read it with him and discuss it. I only let him get "clean" songs on Itunes.

Elana Johnson said...

Kelly, I do the same thing. That's what good parenting is: knowing your child and what they can/can't handle and talking about the things in between.

Bittersweet Fountain--thank you! Love your points.

Angie, I know, right? :)

asabourova--*sigh* I love reading.

storyqueen said...

Shhhh...I haven't read it either...but I am going to this month!

I can't believe I have waited so long...


Mary E Campbell said...

Loved this book as a kid. I liked how Meg wasn't beautiful and a bit of a nerd, but the boy(Calvin?) liked her anyway. As an adult I read it again and loved it and decided to read all of the sequels and because I like Madeline L Engles' writing so much I read more of her stuff and enjoyed most of it. Had know idea this was a banned book, I never had a problem with it.

JoLynne Lyon said...

It's been 25+ years since I read that book, but I remember it was thought-provoking enough that I talked to my mom about it. (I loved it, by the way.) With my own kids I use books as conversation-starters a lot. It makes for some great discussion, touching things that happen in their own lives.

Laura S. said...

YES, those are great things!!! Maybe it's good banning books is around because it generates A LOT of stimulating discussion, and it brings attention to valuable, significant novels. Who knows if SPEAK would've received the attention it has without that teacher banning it from the school's curriculum? Now thousands more people know about it and are reading it, especially teenagers, and that's a wonderful thing!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I believe I'm the only person in the world who didn't connect with this book. Maybe it was because I procrastinated on my fifth-grade book report and had to read it all in one afternoon. :)

I've always been surprised at the way others have loved this story.

Should I give it a second chance?

Tere Kirkland said...

This is the best book that starts with "It was a dark and stormy night." ever!

We were big on talking about books and movies in my family, so I guess I take that for granted, but then again, we weren't really shy about talking about anything at all. That's what happens when your parents are all social workers.

What I loved about this book is the way fantasy and science fiction are woven together, but if it hadn't been for the characters, meg, Charles Wallace, Calvin, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it half as much.

Great post!

Sierra Gardner said...

This is one of my favorite books of all time. I read this as a young child and was fascinated. It opened my mind to the magic of science. I love the parts where it discusses God. I'd never found anything up to that point that expressed so well for me the wonder I felt about the world. Madeline L'Engle is also one of my personal heroes. She is one of the most insightful, decent and genuinely truthful writers I've ever come across. For those reasons, her books are one of the first that I would have my children read.

That point aside, I think that the intent behind a story matters. I've read stories that challenged my ideas but they were well intentioned. These I loved. I've also read books that seem written in an effort to tear people or ideas down. These I didn't like, and didn't find beneficial.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Well said! I couldn't have said it better myself! That's why you rock! Lots of books people try to ban are great opportunities to discuss choices and consequences with kids.

I *have* come across books I hated because they didn't have any redeeming value to me: No happy ending. No character growth. And they happened to promote self-destructive behaviors, as the rotten cherry on top.

These I don't ban. But I will toss them in the trash for a dumpster-diver to claim. I'd do the same thing if I came into possession of a THE RING DVD. *shudders* Some things aren't worth sharing.

Sarah E Olson said...

I loved this book as a kid and just purchased it last month so I could read it again. I hope it lives up to my memory of it!

And I'm in total agreement with you on banning books. Parents need to be in charge of what their kids read, but they don't get to be in charge of what other kids read. That's what parenting is all about - deciding what is best for YOUR child.

Roni Loren said...

As you know, I blogged about this book yesterday because it was the book that made me want to be a writer. What's crazy is that Madeleine L'Engle was a writer-in-residence at a Christian college and many people see the book as a Christian-themed book.

But even The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe has been challenged and that whole book is a Christian allegory.

*shakes head* This whole banning book thing is ridiculous on so many levels.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

I've always enjoyed conversations started by books. Books rarely shake my core foundations, but they'll often make me think new things and I always like that a great deal. I don't think it's such a bad thing to be shaken up by a new idea every now and then. It does a body good.

CL said...

Hooray for witchcraft, crystal balls and demons!
One of my favorite recent banned books is And Tango Makes Three, about two male penguins (true story) at the Central Park zoo who raise a baby penguin together. It's so beautiful.
And so is A Wrinkle in Time!
Hooray for Banned Book Week!

Jemi Fraser said...

I try to read one book from these lists to my students every year - just so we can have these discussions! I'm thinking it might be Wrinkle in Time this year :)

Elana Johnson said...

Caroline, you should totally give it a second chance. Sometimes I try a book and I'm just not in the mood. I'll try it again later, and really like it.