Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shelf Life [kids]

This year marks the publication anniversaries of two very special children’s books which have never been out of print and are still being enjoyed by children today.
A Wrinkle in Time: 50th Anniversary Edition, By Madeleine L’Engle, 236 pages.@ SPL: J FIC L’Eng

Few science fiction stories for children have matched Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (and the subsequent books in the “Time” quintet) which features 12-year-old Meg Murry, her younger brother Charles, and their friend Calvin.
Meg’s scientist father, who has been working on a secret government project, a “tesseract” (a space warp with similarities to the “hotzman effect” in Frank Herbert’s Dune), has been kidnapped by “IT,” an evil being that changes humans into mindless conformities. The three children travel to the distant planet Camazotz to rescue him. They are helped by various creatures – Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, Aunty Beast and the Happy Medium.
The children are eventually able to rescue Mr. Murry, but when they leave Camazotz, Charles is left behind. In the end, Meg discovers that it is only the quality of love which can save Charles – or any of us – from evil. It’s strange to reflect that A Wrinkle in Time – now an indisputable children’s classic – was rejected by over 26 publishers before being accepted by Farrer, Straus & Giroux Publishing in 1962. Madeleine L’Engle was told that her book was “too different” for children.
(L’Engle’s book was quite original for its time. For example, it was one of the first children’s science fiction stories to feature a female protagonist/heroine – an intelligent, “brainy” heroine, at that!)
Along with the original story, the special anniversary edition of A Wrinkle in Time includes extras such as photos of the author, her Newbery Medal acceptance speech, an introduction by author Katherine Paterson, and an afterword by Madeleine L’Engle’s niece.
** Recommended for ages 8 to 13.

Charlotte’s Web, By E.B. White, 184 pages.
@ SPL: J FIC White
One of the most beloved children’s stories of all time is E.B. White’s Newbery Honor Book, Charlotte’s Web. Published in 1952, the well-known story of Wilbur, a pig which begins his life as the runt of the litter, and his friend Charlotte, a wise grey barn spider who saves Wilbur from the chopping block,has retained its appeal to children for 60 years.
Although it’s a story that features more animals than people – similar to many children’s stories – the book has much to impart to young readers about true friendship, empathy, and the whole circle of life and death. (Later in the story, Charlotte dies of natural causes. Her children become Wilbur’s friends, illustrating the truth that while all things at some time come to an end, all things are renewed in some way.)
American author E.B. White also wrote Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, as well as a number of books for adults. The author lived on a farm in Maine, and some of his animals found their way into his children’s books. When asked if his stories were true, however, he explained, “No, they are imaginary tales. But real life is only one kind of life – there is also the life of the imagination.”
E.B.White’s engaging and enchanting story is likely to continue to captivate young readers and listeners for many more years.
** Recommended for ages 6 to 11.
These reviews appeared in The Stratford Gazette on June 28, 2012. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian

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