• The Good: Imaginative, dark scifi with a little girl lead!
  • The Bad: Episodic, religious, a whiny protagonist
  • The Literary: From the macrocosm of the universe to the microcosm of the cell

Fourteen-year-old Meg Murry worries about her little brother Charles Wallace, who’s too smart for school and comes home with new bruises every week. When he starts getting out of breath from a walk across the vegetable garden to show Meg the place where dragons have settled, Meg gets really worried. Meg and Charles’ mother, a brilliant scientist, think something may be medically wrong with Charles Wallace’s mitochondria, and with all Meg’s worries, she and her friend Calvin must go on new adventures to save the little genius.

L’Engle writes smart kid books and smart kids, and she doesn’t shy away from mixing fantasy, science fiction, and religion into the same story. Sometimes the mixture can be overwhelming, but here I love that the dragons in the vegetable garden turn out to be Proginoskes, a cherubim composed out wings and eyes, wind and flame. The story alternates between spaces in between, where time and physical matter are variable, to quiet family dinners or normal-scary encounters with the new pricinpal of the elementary school.

Similar to its predessor A Wrinkle in Time, Meg must face her own trials in order to save her little brother, and it’s a shame her character is only ever worried, with a tendency towards thinking in numbers instead of words. The antagonist is again an otherworldly evil, in this case the Echthroi, beings who hate and revel in nothingness. Meg must learn how to communicate telepathically and trust her own inner strength.

The religious nature of the book is obvious, and it takes me as the reader out of the story. Many fantasy stories and myths rely on naming, but when a higher power specifically knows the number of every hair on our heads, it’s clear the reference is to the Bible.

Highly recommended as a smart kids book with imaginative fantasy elements!