This article originally appeared in the June 8, 1979 issue of Christianity Today.
Madeleine L'Engle is a prolific writer. Stories go through her head in much the same way songs did in Schubert's. And it's been that way since she was just a child. Whether traveling, working at the library of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, or at home in the Connecticut countryside, she cannot for long escape her work; a part of her mind is always writing. On a trip last fall to Illinois and Idaho, she had some ten lectures to giveand certainly no time to write. Yet, she brought her current manuscript with her. That in itself is enough to make her stand apart from the current crop of children's book writers.
There are other differences. Her books are not deliberately simplified for a young audience. Adults who read her stories appreciate them as much as young people. Certainly, they could be marketed as adult fiction. That she won the Newbery Medal places her in the eyes of salesmen in the children's book category. But you can find her writings in either the adult or children's section in bookstores. Libraries seem to have equal difficulty deciding how to catalogue her: I have found the same book in three different sections of a local library.
She follows no set formula or pattern. Experimentation marks her books. Before death was popular in children's books, she wrote about it (much to her publisher's displeasure). And while drugs and rebellion may be in vogue, L'Engle writes about wholesome family life. She gives models in her books of what the Christian family can be. Religion may be outbut it's in for her. As to the question of realism versus fantasy, she follows her own sense of which form to put with which ...1
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