Posts Tagged ‘Madeleine L’Engle’

As I’m sure you might agree, books that have been made into movies can have a rather spotty success rate. In my experience, rarely has a movie based on a book been as fulfilling as the book itself though there certainly have been some, and a few surprisingly good at that. There also have been some disastrous movies that had I not read the book first would have dissuaded me from ever reading it. But what about children’s books?

Skellig-DavidAlmondI recently took the plunge and watched movies based on two of my very favorite children’s books, both middle grade – Skellig by David Almond and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. That the Skellig movie had to add on a tag after the title – “the Owl Man” – should have been my first tip off, but I was open.  David Almond is a brilliant writer and won the Printz Award for this particular novel. One of the things that sets him apart is the sense of the unexpected, of magic, that he brings to everything he writes. Where this movie failed for me is that in attempting to reach its audience it felt it necessary to define and explain the unexplainable. The beauty of Skellig the novel was that you were left at the end still not knowing who – or what – Skellig was. Was he a man? both man and bird? an angel? The reader never knows. In the movie, he is more or less defined. And then there were several hokey, (to me anyway), visual machinations, such as Skelling taking Michael for a ride on his back while he flies, and in two instances a kind of spinning in the air where he heals Michael’s hand and later the baby sister. Plus the movie barely touches upon the wonderful and unique character of Mina and her relationship with Michael , nor of that with his friends. In sum, there were interesting things about the movie, but as a reflection of the novel, Skellig the movie fell far short for me.

AWrinkleinTime-MLEngleA Wrinkle in Time fared a bit better in my estimation, but again, the movie couldn’t really compare to the book. I think the movie did a pretty good job of showing the characters of Meg and Charles Wallace, and I enjoyed Alfre Woodard as Mrs. Whatsit, Alison Elliott as Mrs. Who and Kate Nelligan as Mrs. Which. The visuals of the children traveling through the tesseract to get to the different planets couldn’t have had too many ways to show it, I suppose, but it was a stretch. The interesting thing about this movie, made in 2003, is that it was a made-for-TV movie. I suspect it could have been more successful if actually made as a true movie. A Wrinkle in Time, like Skellig, raises bigger issues than the surface story,  in this case, an adventure to save the children’s father. It’s a coming of age story for Meg but also asks what’s most important in life and how can evil be overcome. I think the movie did a very good job of making that clear, especially in the scene where Meg is able to pull Charles Wallace back from the tenacious evil of It. What I particularly enjoyed is that in the Bonus Features that were on the DVD there is an interview with the late Madeleine L’Engle. That alone may have been worth getting the DVD.

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How interesting that chronos and kairos should appear in my reading materials in so close a time frame. Not long ago, I read Madeleine L’Engle writing about it. Then on October 12th, in one of my favorite books, Simple Abundance – A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, Sarah Ban Breathnach addressed it. And as always, these “chance” messages were of particular relevance to my life at the moment, and my feelings of far too much to do in too little time all too often. Might you find yourself in here, too?

Ms. Ban Breathnach defines chronos as how we try and control time – clocks, calendars, datebooks, agendas, beepers, etc. Chronos is time at its worst and a delusion of grandeur – it is the world’s time.

Kairos, on the other hand, is time at its best. Kairos is transcendence, infinity, joy, passion, the sacred. Kairos let’s go and allows us to escape our own confines. It is spirit’s time.

We, who never seem to have enough time, are at the mercy of chronos … or allow ourselves to be. But we need kairos so desperately. We do already know it – it’s any time when we have been so wondrously involved in what we are doing at the moment that we lose track of worldly time and just are. And there we find joy, rapture, oneness with our own spirit.

But how to be in more kairos? Ms. Ban Breathnach recommends the following:

“* By slowing down
* By concentrating on one thing at a time
* By going about what we are doing as if it were the only thing worth doing at that moment
* By pretending we have all the time in the world, so that our subconscious will kick in and make it so
* By making time
* By taking time.”

She says, “It only takes a moment to cross over from chronos into kairos, but it does take a moment. All that kairos asks is our willingness to stop running long enough to hear the music of the spheres.

“Today be willing to join in the dance.

“Now you’re in kairos.”

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A permanent fixture in my children’s book bookcase is the classic, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. For whatever reason, I recently plucked the sequel to this book, A Wind in the Door, from among the many YA, MG and adult books that I snared from the county’s annual library book sale, awaiting to be read. And once again, a moment of synchronicity.

To me, L’Engle, who passed away in 2007, is a metaphysical teacher. Some see her writing as having a Christian bent; I, however, find it much broader. Her use of the fantastic to engage readers in the greatest battle of all time  – good vs. evil – is spectacular. Two children, Meg Murray, our heroine, and her friend Calvin O’Keefe are called to join the battle, beginning so innocently as Meg’s ailing younger brother, Charles Wallace, announcing that there is a dragon in the twins’ vegetable garden.

Proginoskes, however, with his many wings, each inhabited by many more eyes, is not a dragon, but a cherubim. “I suppose you think I ought to be a golden-haired baby-face with no body and two useless little wings?” says he.

Throughout this novel, the reader is asked to question what is and what is not real, to consider the powers we have, among them the ability to communicate with one another without words, and to understand the ultimate power of love. Love changes everything is L’Engle’s message. Indeed, it can save one small child and the entire universe. But there’s a fight to be had for it. One needs to trust in oneself and in the good of others, even though they’ve lost track of it themselves, to not judge by appearances, to believe that animals can be teachers and guides, and to be willing to travel in galactic space as well as the inner space of mitochondria.

And L’Engle does all this in a completely magical yet utterly believable way.

As soon as I finished A Wind in the Door, I knew I would go right back in and read it again. Then a re-visit of A Wrinkle in Time. Then I believe, I will order the other 3 books in her “time” series.

For more information about Madeline L’Engle, who has written so much more than these few mentioned books, visit her web site. Or to understand her in a nutshell, read her acceptance speech of the Newbery Award she received for A Wrinkle in Time.

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