I wish there was a better word than “nostalgia” to describe how I feel about Hope Larson’s graphic novel treatment of A Wrinkle in Time. That sort of old-timey word doesn’t really do justice to what’s elicited by the book – for me, it’s a mix of readerly affection, spooky wonder, and an inexplicable homesickness for places I’ve never been.
The details are impeccable – Larson did her homework before tackling the 1962 original, which broke ground as one of the first sci-fi novels published for children. In a piece for the Huffington Post, she describes poring over old Sears catalogs from the 1950s and 60s to get the look of the clothes just right. The exterior of Meg’s house is patterned after Madeleine L’Engle’s own rambling farmhouse in Connecticut. And her depictions of all the book’s science-y stuff are so engaging I’d kind of like Larson to do a book on physics next.
But while the visual accuracy is spot on, Larson really shines in recreating the novel’s powerful evocations of space, and of human imperfection vs. cold and rational evil. She uses the same palette of white, light blue and black that Craig Thompson utilized to such great effect in Blankets, and here the color scheme is perfect for depicting such things as the darkness of the night sky, the whorls and stars that accompany time travel, and the lenses in Meg’s thick, unfashionable glasses. The effect is both dreamlike and specific.
Most of the dialogue is lifted directly from L’Engle’s text – making the book immediately familiar to fans of the original. She is also true to the characters – Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Whatsit are at once old-school wacky and otherworldly wise, while Charles Wallace is every bit the child savant you’d expect. As for Meg, Larson subtly captures her awkwardness and discomfort being in her own skin. Prone to big emotions and unsure of how to handle herself, Meg’s biggest flaws – her inability to contain her fear and love – are in fact what save the day. Larson’s depiction of this, the novel’s pivotal moment, is lovely and affecting.
It’s a feat that this book is both a faithful rendition and yet utterly contemporary. Larson gets L’Engle’s belief in family and home and a universe that works, while using the conventions of graphic novel-making to bring forth the novel’s sense of wonder, mystery and possibility. It’s a great experience on its own and well-worth a visit if it’s been a while since you’ve read the original.