It’s a foggy April day in San Francisco. Fog puts me in the mood to write (luckily) or, on a rare occasion when I’m not working, it’s the perfect weather for curling up with a book, with our without a cup of tea and a cat. (Those of us who like to indulge in both cats and tea know that the cat will often try to occupy the same space as a cup of tea, and the end result is scalding water in your lap or on your keyboard).
So thinking about reading made me think about books that influenced me as a child. I was an insatiably omnivorous reader, devouring novels and stories of all kinds—those written for my age group and those intended for much older audiences. Along the mystery path, I began, as so many do, with Nancy Drew when I was seven. By the time I was ten, I’d graduated to Sherlock Holmes (whilst still retaining a love for Nancy. Remind me to blog about The Nancy Drew Cookbook at some point. But I digress …)
A second grade school teacher put my first Nancy Drew in my hands (a vintage hardback of The Ghost of Blackwood Hall). A fourth grade teacher recommended A Wrinkle in Time.
Wrinkle didn’t fuel a life-long passion for science-fiction in the way that Nancy did for mysteries … though I was always a nut for Star Trek (original series, natch) and read everything by Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov I could find. What Madeleine L’Engle did with Wrinkle was nothing less than help shape my spiritual, ethical and moral world view.
I was initially drawn to the book because I was always a science geek—one of my favorite Christmas presents was a deluxe chemistry set my parents got for me when I was eight years old. I owned a microscope, a telescope and a gyroscope. I loved the idea of science (if not math), and even when I graduated from high school and had become a young adult, I seriously considered becoming a Cosmochemist (just the title alone is almost worth it). In fact, I was accepted to U.C. San Diego as a Chemistry major.
A Wrinkle in Time is essentially science fiction. But it uses questions about science to delve into metaphysics, spirituality, and the human condition. It tops the list of all the books written for children/young adults that I read as a child (including stalwarts like The Hobbit). It is the first book I’d place in the hands of a curious, sensitive and intelligent child today.
I don’t want to reveal any spoilers if you haven’t read it—and if you haven’t, please do! Instead, here are my top five lessons learned from A Wrinkle in Time:
- Love is the most powerful energy/entity in the universe.
- Don’t hide or be ashamed of your uniqueness; be proud of who you are.
- Conformity is the ultimate bogeyman.
- Intelligence without empathy or compassion is the ultimate evil.
- Your faults can be virtues under the right circumstances.
I wonder what lessons kids are taking home from today’s crop of more-popular-than-ever YA books … and what your life-lessons from your favorite childhood book might be? Please share below!