207 Many Waters

manywatersby Madeleine L’Engle, 1986
narrated by Ann Marie Lee

Oh, Maddy. Why you gotta be so problematic? This fourth installment of the Time Quintet focuses on twins Sandy and Dennys and occurs before the events of A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Good-looking, athletic, and popular, the twins are the odd ones in the exceptionally intelligent Murry family. They’re the least likely to think about tessering or visiting other dimensions, so when they enter their parents’ lab while an experiment is in progress, they’re especially shocked to find themselves thrown onto a sandy desert circa who-knows-when.

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206 A Swiftly Tilting Planet

swiftlytiltingplanetby Madeleine L’Engle, 1978
narrated by Jennifer Ehle

Alas, the third book in the Time Quintet suffers a little bit from boredom. We’ve moved ahead in the Murry’s lives and find Meg married to Calvin and pregnant with their child. Twins Sandy and Dennys are in law and medical school and Charles Wallace is a teenager. The family has gathered together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Calvin is off in England giving a conference, so they are joined by his mother, Mrs. Branwen Maddox O’Keefe. The dinner is interrupted when Mr. Murry receives a call from the president warning him of impending nuclear war set in motion by the South American dictator known as Mad Dog Branzillo. After Mrs. O’Keefe utters a mysterious rune, we’re off on another adventure in time and space.

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204 Watership Down

watershipdownby Richard Adams, 1972

My first question about Watership Down is, why did no one ever tell me to read this?! You see, I love bunnies. Aside from Care Bears, I was not a teddy bear kind of kid. I was also never a doll kind of kid and the only dolls I had were ones that other people bought for me and not ones that I asked for. No, I loved bunnies, and it is still one of my greatest regrets that I have yet to adopt a bunny as a pet. I also feel a pang of regret for the fact that my childhood passed without ever reading this adventure tale about a gang of bunnies looking for a new, peaceful home. Society, you have let me down!

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187 A Wind in the Door

awindinthedoorby Madeleine L’Engle, 1973
narrated by Jennifer Ehle

This is the book that taught me the word “mitochondria”!

In this second installment of the Time Quintet, we find Meg Murry worried about her younger brother Charles Wallace. He’s being bullied at school over his intelligence and his penchant for speaking about complex subjects like an adult. At home, Charles Wallace is seeing dragons in their back yard, and he and Meg discover some unusual feathers. Meanwhile, Charles Wallace appears to be getting sicker and sicker, suffering from some sort of malady that affects his breathing. Their microbiologist mother believes it may be a disorder of his mitochondria and their farandolae. Later, Meg teams up with Calvin O’Keefe, and the two engage in a cosmic battle involving good and evil and a Fantastic Voyage-like journey inside Charles Wallace to save his life.

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132 The Vile Village

vilevillageby Lemony Snicket, 2001

Things are starting to heat up for the Baudelaires! We’re still using the same formula as ever: the siblings are placed in the care of some well-meaning but less than apt adult, Count Olaf shows up in a new disguise, and the orphans end up having to save themselves. In this case, however, an entire village fails the three, as the moniker “It takes a village to raise a child” is put to the test in their new home, the Village of Fowl Devotees. Or, if you will, VFD.

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111 The Austere Academy

austereacademyby Lemony Snicket, 2000

Fifth verse, same as the first. Snicket has yet to deviate from formula in The Austere Academy, the fifth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still enjoyable to read. In this installment we see the Baudelaire orphans transferred to the care of yet another idiotic adult, a Vice Principal Nero at Prufrock Preparatory School. The three are expected to do ridiculous things – Violet to memorize the stories of the boring Mr. Remora, Klaus to measure all the objects Mrs. Bass demands, and Sunny to serve as Nero’s administrative assistant – and no one believes them when they insist that the new, amazing Coach Genghis is really Count Olaf in disguise. To be honest, I’d have tired of this by now if it weren’t for Snicket’s cleverness, which continues to permeate each one of his stories.

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