A Wind in the Door: Mind-expanding SF for kids

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsA Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle children's science fiction book reviewsA Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle

When I was a kid, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time blew my mind. I’m sure that’s why I remember it as one of my favorite childhood books. Reading it gave me the first inkling of the immenseness of the universe and that the concepts of space and time were much more complicated than I had realized. I think it was also the book that started my life-long love of science fiction. Before that, I had no idea that I loved having my mind blown! It’s surprising then that I never read the sequels to A Wrinkle in Time. I don’t think I was aware of them until years later and then I probably thought of them as children’s books and passed them by. That was a big mistake which I’ve now corrected.

The first sequel, published eleven years later (in 1973) is A Wind in the Door. Meg is now in high school and Mr. Jenkins, the principal she so much dislikes, has been demoted to run the school that Meg’s little brother Charles Wallace attends. Meg is angry with Mr. Jenkins because he can’t control the bullies who are ganging up on Charles. Meanwhile Charles has become sickly and Meg’s mother, a microbiologist with two PhDs, suspects there’s something wrong with his mitochondria, the organelles that provide our cells’ energy. She theorizes the existence of even smaller cellular elements called farandolae (these are not real) that live in the mitochondria and are, in Charles Wallace’s case, being destroyed. As Charles languishes, Meg, Mr. Jenkins and a cherubim named Proginoskes go on a journey that they hope will save his life because, according to what they learn, if Charles dies, the whole world, and maybe even the universe, will be in danger. For there is an epic battle between the forces of good and evil and little Charles Wallace is a key player.

A Wind in the Door is a children’s story, but it’s full of the same kind of mind-expanding science fiction ideas and mature philosophical themes that I experienced when I first read A Wrinkle in Time. In addition to addressing the complexities of time, including whether time really has any meaning at all outside of our planet, L’Engle attempts to give us a feeling for the vastness of the universe by comparing and contrasting the size of our galaxy with the size of the organelles in our cells. She shows us that not only are we ignorant of what goes on in our universe, but the same is true for what goes on in the bodies we inhabit.

As with A Wrinkle in Time, there is a definite but subtle religious (Christian) subtext to the story, too. (L’Engle was a Christian.) The struggle going on in the cells of Charles Wallace’s body is a metaphor for the greater struggle between good and evil. The epic evil of the story is in the form of creatures called Echthroi which appear to be fallen angels. The good force is the creator of the universe which we can assume is the Christian God because there are a couple of Biblical quotations and several Biblical concepts such as the creation singing of its creator, the importance and power of love as an action (not just a feeling), the idea that people are everlasting souls that are known and “named” by God and that they can grow in spiritual maturity, the idea that people who seem insignificant to the world can greatly impact its future, and the notion that a sacrifice can be redemptive.

Many younger children will not pick up on all these ideas and will likely find some of the contemplative parts too slow, but most children will be able to get something out of the story such as the important message that a person’s appearance and mannerisms are not as important as what’s inside, and that love is a choice we can make.

Jennifer Ehle narrates Listening Library’s audio version of A Wind in the Door. My daughter and I enjoyed her performance and look forward to hearing her read the next book, A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

Madeleine L'Engle Time Quintet 1. A Wrinkle in Time (1962) 2. A Wind in the Door (1973) 3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978) 4. Many Waters (1986) 5. An Acceptable Time (1989) Madeleine L'Engle Time Quintet 1. A Wrinkle in Time (1962) 2. A Wind in the Door (1973) 3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978) 4. Many Waters (1986) 5. An Acceptable Time (1989) Madeleine L'Engle Time Quintet 1. A Wrinkle in Time (1962) 2. A Wind in the Door (1973) 3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978) 4. Many Waters (1986) 5. An Acceptable Time (1989) Madeleine L'Engle Time Quintet 1. A Wrinkle in Time (1962) 2. A Wind in the Door (1973) 3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978) 4. Many Waters (1986) 5. An Acceptable Time (1989) Madeleine L'Engle Time Quintet 1. A Wrinkle in Time (1962) 2. A Wind in the Door (1973) 3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978) 4. Many Waters (1986) 5. An Acceptable Time (1989)


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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2 comments

  1. Sandy Ferber /

    My experience with these books was similar to yours, Kat. The first one blew me away as a kid but for some reason I didn’t read the four following books in the series until I was an adult. And I loved them all, as it turned out!

  2. Same here. I picked up A Wrinkle in Time to reread a few months ago, now I need to get The Wind in the Door. I have A Swiftly Tilting Planet around somewhere.

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