Saturday, November 19, 2016

Inch One Hundred Forty-Five: Madeleine and Me

I did not discover the writer Madeleine L'Engle until my older son Ben, who is now almost 31, brought her books home sometime in elementary school. Even though her earliest works, including her Newberry Award winner A Wrinkle In Time (1962) appeared during my childhood, somehow I managed to make it into adulthood before realizing what a rich literary universe she created with her "Chronos" and "Kairos" series.

Trust me, I made up for lost time.

Because I became a L'Engle fan, I tended to gravitate towards her titles when I came across cheap books or throwaway books. Which is why about 12 years ago, when my friend Linda and I came across some boxes of discarded books during a morning walk, my hands immediately went to a battered hardback of A Swiftly Tilting Planet, the third book in the Kairos series. It was a discard from Brookville High School, worn but still serviceable.

It is a first edition, published in 1978. And, wonder of wonders, it is signed by the author.
For all at Brookville High School—
Madeleine L'Engle
Well, there's glory for you.

I have held onto my signed first edition for all this time, enjoying seeing Madeleine's flourish across the page. I figured finding a signed book randomly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It turns out I was wrong.

Delaware has started to see a proliferation of Little Free Libraries. Little Free Libraries are a wonderful community project at a grassroots level. They operate on the "take a book, leave a book" principle and Delaware now has a handful of them.

The libraries are mounted in front yards, near a sidewalk, so passersby may stop and explore the offerings. There is four within easy walking distance of here. (I have not yet talked Warren into building and installing one.)

One is very close to the county building in which I work. A few weeks ago, I stopped to scan the titles. There was a paperback version of L'Engle's Troubling a Star, and I took it. It is not my favorite work by her, but I figured I could read it at chemo and recirculate it at another LFL.

The book sat on a coffee table for a week or so before I picked it up to pack it for the day. And that was when I opened the book and found this:


Madeleine L'Engle died in 2007, but her books live on. In 2011, when I read all the Newbery Award books to date (something I have continued to do since 2011), I named When You Reach Me by Patricia Stead the best Newbery ever, not in small part because it was a beautiful tribute to L'Engle and A Wrinkle In Time.

And I have her beautiful signature flowing across two books, both acquired randomly, both part of my library.

Madeleine and me. Best book friends forever.


Darla said...

Finding both signed books is amazing. I haven't read anything by this author. We too have free libraries in yards here and there. I'm going to take a closer look next time I pass one.

Anne said...

This is so perfect.