Sarah Wilson, a reader and mom in Nashville, TN recently told us of her experience reading A Wrinkle in Time with her Parent-Child Book Club. She’s generously allowed us to share her this guide for others who might want to do the same. Thanks, Sarah!
“Only a fool is not afraid.” –- Mrs. Whatsit, A Wrinkle in Time
For the past three years, my oldest daughter (10) and I have been participating in a parent/child book club. Some of the books we have read together include Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary and Wonder by R.J. Palacio. This September, as she began middle school (5th grade in Nashville), she and her five book club friends devoured Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. The girls related to the themes and characters, loved talking about time travel and the difference between science fiction and fantasy, and also how they can seek the strong attributes of Meg and her fellow explorers in their own lives. Our discussions also revealed that they were indeed afraid of things –- as we all are, lest we be fools — but perhaps Meg and Charles Wallace and Calvin gave them a bit of insight into the benefits of delving into the unknown and facing their fears.
We discovered that A Wrinkle in Time is a fantastic story for a parent-child book group, a family read, a classroom unit or an adult book club too. Our bi-monthly book meet-up always includes snacks related to the book, a book-related discussion followed by an art/craft activity or game. Here are some ideas on how we pulled off an epic A Wrinkle in Time book club meeting:
Best For: Adults and children ages 9-14 (5-8 grade)
Timing: We gave all of the girls and their parents two months to read the book. Coincidentally, we planned our discussion at the beginning of National Banned Book Week (the last week of September) and since A Wrinkle in Time is counted among banned books in the U.S., we included a banned books discussion (why do you think books are banned? What are your views on banning books? Why do you think A Wrinkle in Time was banned in some communities?)
Book Inspired snacks – Every member of our book club contributes snacks that most often apply to the book (sometimes a little abstract – I think the girls have managed to make Oreos fit into every book club meeting to date). Here are some A Wrinkle in Time snacks we enjoyed:
• Rice Krispy Treat Brains
• Liverwurst with cream cheese sandwiches
• Jam with cream cheese sandwiches
• Hot chocolate
• Oreos (representing the planets and moons)
Book Discussion Questions – There are many resources online and at your library with questions for a rich A Wrinkle In Time discussion based on themes, age, etc. Here are some of the questions we discussed with our group:
• How does Meg feel about her father and his work?
• Imagine living in a community that mistrusts and resents you. What is it like for the Murrys to live in a community that doesn’t understand them?
• How is Charles Wallace like Meg? How is he different?
• How would you describe tesseracting? Would you want to do it?
• If you had the opportunity to time travel, would you? If you could choose the time, what time period would you travel to? The past? The future? Where would you travel?
• What are Meg’s faults? How do they help her in the end?
• Meg experiences various types of love throughout her adventure. How does her understanding of love develop over the course of the novel?
• Who is the most courageous character, in your opinion? Explain.
• Would you define this story as fantasy or science fiction? What are the differences between these two genres?
• What is the difference between fate and free will? Which do you support?
Book related activities: Below are several activities we considered when planning out book club. Each idea correlates to a quote from the book that can be applied to a discussion about the project and book:
Create a board game – “You see though we travel together, we travel alone.”
• Materials needed: poster board or a painted game board, markers or paint pens, game pieces, a die, cardstock for cards.
• To create A Wrinkle in Time board game, consider using an old board and painting it white (or use poster board). Establish the game pieces – perhaps each game piece represents a traveling character, but there are no teams. Draw a path on the board. Each piece will travel the same path, but each alone. Create three sets of cards – one set include successes from the story (i.e. Mrs. Who lends you her spectacles – Move forward 2 spaces; Your ability to love saves the day – Move forward 3 spaces) that would move their piece ahead 1-3 spaces, another set of cards includes various setbacks throughout the novel (i.e. You momentarily land on a 2-dimensional planet – move back 2 spaces; you bounce a ball out of rhythm – move back 3 spaces), sending them back 1-3 spaces. And finally a stack of question cards which include a question from the book that had to be answered correctly to roll the dice again (i.e. What dimension is the tesseract? What is the first line of the book?). The winner was the first to make it home.
Create your own planet – “They are very young. And on their earth, as they call it, they never communicate with other planets. They revolve about all alone in space.” “Oh,” the thin beast said. “Aren’t they lonely?”
• Materials needed: a paper mache ball or a large piece of paper, markers or paint, construction paper, various materials to decorate the planet.
• Either as individuals, pairs or small groups allow students (and parents) to create a planet. Include the creatures that reside on the planet, if the darkness hovers over the planet, where the planet is located. What is the name of the planet? Does it have moons, stars or magical creatures? Is it good or evil? Allow the students to present their planet to the group.
Write a short story beginning with “It was a dark and stormy night…”
• Materials needed: Pen and paper
• The opening sentence of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton’s novel Paul Clifford, published in 1830, begins with the phrase: “It was a dark and stormy night….” Often considered the worst opening line in literature, writers, including the beagle Snoopy, have attempted in jest to begin their stories with the same line. When Madeleine L’Engle’s children would ask her to tell a story, she would always begin with “It was a dark and stormy night….” So it was no surprise that she would use it to begin her novel and send you on the journey to A Wrinkle in Time. Allow students to write their own short story, or essay beginning with “It was a dark and stormy night…”
Write a sonnet, exquisite corpse style – “You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?” “Yes.” Mrs. Whatsit said. “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”
• Materials needed: Paper and pen.
• The sonnet has strict rules. Fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, but with that form, the poet can say whatever he wants to. Explain the sonnet form to the group, then have each student write one line and fold the paper so that the next person cannot see what the previous person wrote. Once finished, read the entire poem aloud.
Blindfold Guessing Game – “We do not know what things look like. We know what things are like. It must be a very limiting thing, this seeing.”
• Materials needed: A blindfold, various objects around the house (i.e. a piece of fruit, a book, a ball)
• Give a blindfolded participant an object that they have to describe to the others who also don’t know what the object is. Rotate around the group.
Write what will happen next – “I don’t understand it any more than you do, but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to understand things for them to be.”
• Materials needed: pen and paper
• The quest to save Meg’s father and subsequently Charles Wallace was a success, but the Dark Thing still looms heavily over Earth. What will happen next? Will the Dark Thing ever be defeated? Try your hand in writing a sequel!
Build a tesseract – “Speaking of ways, pet, by the way, there is such thing as a tesseract.”
• Materials needed: Found objects and various craft supplies.
• Use found objects, craft supplies and your imagination to create your own version of a tesseract. Share your creations with the group.
What to read next: Did you love A Wrinkle in Time as much as we did? Here are some suggestions on what to read next:
The Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle:
• A Wind in the Door
• A Swiftly Tilting Planet
• Many Waters
• An Acceptable Time
When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead
The Giver, Louis Lowry
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
Sarah Wilson is a freelance writer and editor in Nashville, TN. As a former high school English teacher and now the mother of 3 girls, Sarah has always loved L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time for its adventure, strong female protagonist and the themes of family and love. Sarah is the Managing Editor at TheNashvilleMom.com and recently started her own family travel website TheWanderingRumpus.com (no time travel…yet). She avidly reads all genres of books but especially loves young adult fiction and middle grade books. When she’s not writing, reading or wrangling little girls, you may just find her working on her own tesseract!