A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L'Engle
[Modern Fantasy/Science Fiction]
On the night of a big storm, Meg Murry is not able to sleep, and goes downstairs to find her mother and Charles Wallace are awake as well. They hear a commotion outside on their porch, and come to find that it is Mrs. Whatsit, who is known as the neighborhood tramp. She doesn't stay for long, simply saying "there is such thing as a tesseract" before disappearing out the door. A tesseract is a wrinkle in time. The next afternoon, the children and their friend Calvin go to Mrs. Whatsit's house. While there, they are told that the universe is threatened by the "dark thing" and is turning into a cloud with stars around it. Mrs. Whatsit says that it has happened to many planets, including the one that their kidnapped father is on. The children want to go look for their father, so Mrs. Whatsit and her friends let them.Everything on the planet looks the same, because everything has to conform to IT, which is a huge disembodied brain. Charles Wallace tries to fight IT but loses, and turns into a robot under the control of IT. Charles Wallace is able to lead Calvin and Meg to their father while he is under the control of IT. Together, the three escape through a tesseract to a different planet. Charles Wallace is stuck on the planet with IT. When they arrive on the other planet, Mrs. Whatsit and her friends are there as well. Meg realizes that she needs to go back and rescue Charles Wallace, but she must travel by herself. She is toldthat she has something that IT does not have, but she must figure out what it is. If she does, she will be able to defeat him. When Meg gets back to the planet to rescue Charles Wallace and is in the presence of it, she realizes that her weapon is the ability to love. She uses this ability to love to restore Charles Wallace to his normal form and travel with him through the tesseract. They land on Earth, where their father and Calvin are waiting for them. The family is back together and they are overjoyed. As Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which are traveling through the tesseracts, they stop by to see the family together again.
This story is great to use with 4th and 5th graders. It is imaginative and differents, and keeps the reader fully engaged. A class could read the book chapter by chapter with discussion after each reading to ensure understanding. As a follow-up project after we finish the book, I would have students create a diaramma of a scene in the movie. On the outside of the diaramma they would include a summary, list of character descriptions, and a description of the scene in the diaramma. I think this would be a great way to go back after reading and double check that students comprehended the story.