madeleine l’engle

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and A Wrinkle in Time

In part to make up for missing a review last week and also to honor two of my buddies / ol’ pals who took my fabulous survey (link in upper right), it’s a two-for-one book review this Saturday! Woot woot! And these two books are ones that if you haven’t read, your life is SERIOUSLY INCOMPLETE so you better click on them and buy them immediately from Amazon so that we can be friends again. The first book is my ABSOLUTELY FAVORITE and Katie mentioned that she recently picked it up on a trip to B&N. (Katie is SO like me when it comes to visiting a fabulous bookstore; we can’t leave without armfuls of tasty literature and I heart it when she shares on her blog her latest bibliophile purchases.) The second book is one that I recently lent a copy to my niece, Annie. It’s also listed on Kow’s list of books she’s read on She rated it five stars out of five stars and I must say, I agree. (Kow is another girlfriend who I can ALWAYS count on for a good reading recommendation or to discuss one of the myriad novels we have devoured.)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was published back at the start of the 20th century and follows the story of the protagonist, Francie, as she grows up in a very underprivileged Brooklyn family. She loves to go to the library; she loves to curl up with a book hidden beneath the branches of a tree outside her flat’s window; she loves to take in the lives of the people living around her. It’s a beautiful book because it takes you back to when you were a kid and still had the energy to take in everything happening around you.

When I was living in Pennsylvania for a summer while making an attempt at selling study guides door-to-door, I would reward myself for putting in so many hours or getting a couple of sales by going to the Chambersburg library, curling up in a chair by the window and rereading this book. It’s one of the books that gives me comfort because this little woman that Betty Smith created, Francie, shares with me her courage, hunger, practicality, observations and love of books. She is a literary figure that mirrors the Tree of Heaven, which grows up out of the cement cracks or cellar gratings in Brooklyn; struggling against the odds to survive and blossom. My parents gave me this book for Christmas when I was in high school and it’s one of the most cherished in my library.

A Wrinkle in Time is a book that most everyone my age read when they were in elementary school, or so I thought. Lately, it’s come up in conversation several times and the friends that I was talking to didn’t know it. Gasp! I forget that not every kid read it so eagerly and after finishing, quickly picked up the next Madeleine L’Engle book in their mom’s library until she had read all of those, then road her bike to the city library to check out more. I even wrote the author a letter and she replied. I think that I am long overdue to read some more L’Engle books.

I had to read summaries online to remember all of the details (clearly, it’s time for a refresher), but before long I started to recall how as a child, I loved the literary relationships with L’Engle’s characters in this book: Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin O’Keefe. They meet a stranger on a dark and stormy night who talks about a tesseract—a wrinkle in time. And then the adventure takes off through space and time, searching for Meg’s scientist father who disappeared while involved in secret government research on tesseracts. Just a warning to you, though… if you haven’t read this, be prepared to enjoy it so much that you, too, will want to read everything L’Engle has written and wish she was still alive so you could write to her with your admirations.

You know how there are some sweet memories that you will always hang on to? I still have mine of walking through the library in Sugarhouse and finding a treasure of L’Engle books—shortly after looking up the address in another big book downstairs of L’Engle’s publisher. I can almost smell the library now.