“Becoming Madeleine”, was published to coincide with the movie release, March 9, 2018, of the movie, “A Wrinkle in Time”, based on the classic science fiction book for children written by Madeleine L’Engle in 1962. In addition to this famous Newbery classic, L’Engle also wrote four companion novels to accompany it, fourteen other children’s books, plus adult fiction and non-fiction.
“Becoming Madeleine” is L’Engle’s biography written by her two granddaughters, Charlotte Voiklis and Léna Roy. These biographers had access to a number of family items and documents not previously available to the public – photographs, diaries, journals, letters plus L’Engle’s early poetry and plays. The biography follows her life from the early years up to and including the publication of “A Wrinkle in Time”. The authors felt that their grandmother’s early years – family life, schooling, and her compulsion to write from the age of eleven – would be the period to which young readers, and fans of her novels, would best relate.
With this audience in mind, the writing style is straightforward and easy to read. The text is double-spaced and of medium font. On every page there are journal entries from Madeleine’s diaries that give anecdotal accounts of the time period being discussed. Black and white photographs of the author, her homes, schools, family and friends appear frequently, along with copies of Madeleine’s poetry and excerpts from her letters and daily postcards to her mother.
Today’s students will be interested in Madeleine’s schooling at boarding schools in Switzerland and the United States; many will be able to relate to her shyness, her awkwardness in making new friends and trying to fit in. In her elementary years, Madeleine was often lonely and felt isolated. By high school, Madeleine was happier, but she always had a need to write. Students today will delight in her comments about school, and in her report cards (Madeleine’s teachers did not see her as a good student). Aspiring writers will be inspired by Madeleine’s persistence, her countless rejections by publishers, but primarily by her devotion to writing…in Madeleine’s words, “I have asked myself frequently of late why writing is so desperately important to me…It is just a necessary function to me like breathing and eating…and is one of my greatest joys. And one of my greatest agonies.” (“Becoming Madeleine”, p. 122)
A timely and fascinating read for all Madeleine L’Engle fans – young and old.