A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters this week and while most of our time is spent swooning over the gorgeous trailer and phenomenal cast – Oprah! Reese Witherspoon! Mindy Kaling! – we still have plenty of time to think about the original source material and every other deeply moving books from our childhood. Without further ado, here are our favorite middle grade novels, chock full of those bottom-of-our-heart feelings.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (1962)
Madeline L’Engle was on a ten-week camping trip across the United States when the characters Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which made their way into her subconscious. The rest is history. Well, not quite. Her novel was considered too different, too preoccupied with the prevalence of evil in the world. Twenty-six rejections later, L’Engle found a home for her novel – and the four sequels that followed. It’s a book that’s been cherished for generations; a novel that’s certain to become even more popular with the Ava DuVernay-directed film. If you’re looking for us, we’ll be in the theater crying with all the happiness we can muster. And then it’s back to the library to borrow this incredible book for the hundredth time.
Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)
When you mention Matilda to a '90s kid, chances are they’ll picture Mara Wilson in the title role before they think of the novel by Roald Dahl. But this 1988 novel inspired a generation of readers; bookish kids (now adults) who genuinely believed that if they read enough books, they’d be able to move objects across the room too. (Hold on, that was just us?) And no matter how many classes we took, no one could compare to Miss Honey. Roald Dahl really had our number there for a while: voracious readers, fantastic teachers, and mysterious powers. We’re tearing up just thinking about it.
Holes by Louis Sachar (1998)
If the name Stanley Yelnats IV rings a bell, chances are you read Holes once or twice as a kid. This middle grade novel plays with palindromes and delightfully defies genre. Is it a mystery? Is it a comedy? Is it something else entirely? One thing’s for sure: it’s engrossing through and through. And it will make you wish every novel had a no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (1997)
Our copy of Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted is so worn out you can barely read the title on the spine. This novel is not only an incredible adaptation of Cinderella – one that balances a fantastical setting with modern philosophies – it’s also a feminist allegory perfect for readers of all ages. (And when we say “all ages” we mean we’ve been reading this book over and over for decades.) Our own Geekerella gives us some Ella Enchanted feels; maybe that’s why we love it so much! It’s amazing we’re sticking around long enough to finish writing this when it’s so tempting to just abandon our post and reread this wonderful middle grade novel. Ella of Frell is the badass we all need – a young woman grappling with the gift (ahem, curse) of obedience and making it through the other side. It’s beautiful and magical and oops we just ordered a copy for every nine-year-old we know.
The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
If you were also disappointed that the film adaptation of The Giver wasn’t filmed in black and white, you’re among friends. This dystopian novel about a supposed utopia is one of the most incredible novels we’ve ever read – to this day! It’s a thought provoking and sobering look at a world two or three steps away from our own. When we discovered just what it meant to become a Receiver of Memory, we were torn in two completely different directions. At first, we wanted to close the book and take the longest break in the world.
But then we took a breath and devoured the rest of the book, a box of tissues close by.