A Wrinkle in Time | Novel: Madeleine L’Engle / Laurel Leaf | Graphic Novel: Hope Larson / Farrar Strraus Giroux
Meg Murry is the intelligent daughter of two world-renowned scientists, but her world is still falling apart. Unable to cope in school, she’s failing her grade and getting in fights with teachers; meanwhile her four-year-old brother Charles Wallace, the smartest, kindest person in her life, refuses to talk to those outside his family, leaving the whole town thinking he’s a simpleton. Everything would be better with her father around, but Mr. Murry has been missing for years, ever since he went to Washington to work on a top secret project. Then, a mysterious old woman named Mrs. Whatsit appears at their house on a dark and stormy night. She and her friends, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, take Meg, Charles, and their friend Calvin on a quest through space and time to save their father and fight a battle against the darkness that threatens to consume the universe.
First published in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time has won a number of awards, including the Newbery medal for children’s literature. Despite that, Madeleine L’Engle had quite a struggle getting it published, being rejected almost 30 times because the story was “too different.” Now, her science fiction novel has been continuously in print for 50 years and continues to make showings on lists of top books for children. In 2010 publishing house Farrar, Strause and Giroux — the original publishers of A Wrinkle in Time — decided to create a graphic novel version of the now classic book, signing on artist Hope Larson to bring the beloved story to life.
I’ve been a long-time fan of Madeleine L’Engle, and though my awe of her really began with A Ring of Endless Light (to this day one of my favorite books) A Wrinkle in Time and all of its companion novels hold their own special place. It’s difficult to think of a contemporary novel, children’s or adult, that you can compare this to. Very basically it is the usual story of good versus evil — the light against the dark — but her characters aren’t as simple as that. Charles Wallace is empathic and smarter than most humans can imagine, but he’s also arrogant, while Meg, the ultimate hero of the story, is emotional, angry, and easily affected by the evil creature IT. When talking about Earth, which is shadowed by a darkness that has taken over many other worlds, their friend Calvin admits, “We make some awful bloopers there.” But, he points out, humankind is fighting the shadow, trying to be better than they have been. That is what A Wrinkle in Time is about, perhaps more than good vs. evil; it’s about knowing and accepting your own faults, and striving to be better than you may have been before.
Right away in the graphic novel we see the famous opening words scrawling across the page: “It was a dark and stormy night.” From that point on, Hope Larson remains faithful to the original book. She did still make the decision to edit down some parts, such as when Meg is momentarily left alone in the darkness after she rescues her father from his prison. These were things that worked very well in the context of the book, increasing the apprehension and Meg’s fear. In the graphic novel, however, this would have resulted in repetitive images and slowed down the pace.
Though L’Engle’s original novel is written in the third person, the story is told entirely from Meg’s point of view. Obviously aware of this, Larson used some effective techniques to keep it that way. Rather than copy-and-pasting narrative passages from the novel, Larson reworded portions so they were Meg’s first-person thoughts, keeping us close to Meg. Larson also does something interesting with her art while Meg is paralyzed — there is none. For five and a half pages there are is nothing but small black squares as Meg struggles to move and listens in on her father and Calvin’s conversation. By keeping the panels small, Larson maintains the steady pace while also creating the feeling of movement more effectively than one black page full of text would have done.
Larson made the interesting choice to color the entire graphic novel in shades of blue. While I would have loved to see the story in full color, the soft monotone grants the images an ethereal quality that fits with the novel’s tone. The character designs, for the most part, were what I’ve been imagining for years: Meg is scruffy and grumpy, and Larson remembered to keep a bruise on her cheek throughout, while Calvin is lanky and adorable. The only one that didn’t quite reconcile with the image I’d had in my head is Charles Wallace. Larson’s attempts to have Charles look far too intelligent and wise for his years made him look a bit strange to my eyes. This works much better later on when Charles is being controlled by IT, but Larson’s design makes him appear a bit creepy long before that’s supposed to be the case.
Really, any problems I have with the graphic novel are just nitpicking. Any changes Larson made were minimal and effective in maintaining the flow and tone of L’Engle’s novel. The biggest issue I had was with some of the character designs, but that’s ultimately a matter of preference rather than quality. Larson’s love and respect for A Wrinkle in Time is apparent in every page, and I couldn’t have ever possibly hoped to experience a more satisfying adaptation of L’Engle’s work. I would always want to urge kids to read L’Engle’s book, it would not be disappointing in the least to see them reading this graphic novel instead.