Art Interlude: Exploring a Wrinkle in Time

“It was a dark and stormy night . . .” One of the most epic opening lines chosen to pull readers in to one of the most well-known science fiction/fantasy series for children ever written.   As you can tell from my blog title, I have quite a fondness for  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle .

Sadly I’m under the weather this week and its cut my posting time down dramatically.  As I didn’t want to leave readers without some new things to think about, I figured we could take a look at some of the covers that this classic book has had over its 50 year in publication.  Lets see what I can find . . .

Aha!  Here’s the original cover! This is the first edition published in the US (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1962)  .  This abstract cover by Ellen Raskin was probably the safest bet at the time.   It’s worth noting that the story more than a little odd, and representing it on the cover without  making it too peculiar for skeptical readers would be (and will be!) a challenge.

Clearly this is a Yearling edition,  but sources I have aren’t clear on it’s publication date.  I think this is the 1976 paperback, but could be mistaken.  This was the edition I grew up with.  It was part of a set of L’Engle’s books I received for my birthday.  I still have them somewhere, pages yellowed, covers falling off.   Frankly it’s one of the most unappealing covers of the bunch.  The bright yellow frame, the still life flower garden in one corner, the vague shape of our kid characters riding our alien beasts’ back.   Not sure what the rainbow is all about.  This was one instance where not judging a book by it’s cover was a good thing!

Well if you were looking for a cover that really shouted “alien!” this one about does it.  (Laurel Leaf, 1976).  We have a saturnine floating head with glowing eyes–and it’s got a bubble.  The flying creature is startlingly odd–particularly the almost classic roman statue with rainbow hued wing-arms and a horse body.  While other covers have tried to capture the creature they generally wind up with something that looks like a centaur with wings added. The backdrop is clearly an alien landscape.  This cover gave me the creeps as a girl.  It just seems more like pulp science fiction for adults. Not saying it would have kept me away from reading it though!

I’m not entirely sure, but I believe this is  the Yearling, 1984 cover. It’s also the only cover with really realistic and detailed depictions of our main child characters.   Most of the other depictions are either stylized line drawings, or (in one case) our characters seen only from the back.  The fact that the winged being has a horse’s body is slightly obscured, while the being itself looks like something out of a romantic fantasy story.  The floating head with glowing eyes  in the corner is eerie and spooky.   It certainly has an 80’s feel with the outfits and the hair cuts. But the big question I have for this cover is, what the heck is everyone looking at?  

(Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1997)  This one is a pretty handsome cover, overall.  A great detail of our winged alien (though the wings are awfully small and you really doubt it can fly) rearing up over an alien landscape.  This one pulls you right into the story without creating the kind of distance that the previous covers have.  That said, it also looks very much like a centaur here, and could be mistaken for a pure fantasy novel.   

(Yearling, 1999) I really don’t know what inspired this cover, but it’s just bizarre.  Our line drawing stylized protagonists seem to be painted on the side of  the egg that’s hatching a giant handkerchief with wings and a pointy nosed head.  There are clearly two more “eggs” on the earth landscape depicted in the background.  Just . . .yeesh.  

(Square Fish, 2007)  Okay, I like the colors on this one and the detail.  Kind of wish we’d see the characters from the front here.  But it’s the fact that their bottom halves seem to have been turned into flame throwers or some such that makes it so bizarre.  Still it catches the outer space travel feel, and indicates the dark shadow threat. 

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010)  Art by Teeun Yoo.  You know, it’s absolutely possible to look at this cover and miss all the art that’s going on.  I’ve had this book on my library shelves, and yet I only noticed that the title has this big blank space in the middle to itself.  It’s only when I’m actually considering the art that I realize how detailed it is.  It features all three Ms W’s.  It has Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin flying across the top of the page from their cottage to a forbidding building, then it shows them riding on the winged alien at the bottom.  It’s actually a really cool cover.  Problem is, the eyes don’t go to the margins naturally, and it’s easy for this cover art to be glanced over only as a frame for the title.

(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011)  I have a 2011 date for this, but feel it came out much earlier. (Perhaps they reprinted the hardcover for 2011?) This is by far my favorite cover. So it comes as no surprise that this is a Leo and Diane Dillon cover.  Elegant, evocative and amazingly detailed.  It’s the only covering featuring the three Ms Ws  that really makes them into profound and mysterious individuals.  It’s the only cover to feature the Happy Medium, and one of the few covers that doesn’t feature the flying alien creature.  There’s always been something about the Dillons’ work that pulls me in.

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012)  And finally, here we are at the 50th anniversary edition.  It’s very similar to the Ellen Raskin 1st edition cover, with small changes and a color shift.  I admit it is clever that they decided to give a nod to the original art for the anniversary.

So there you have it!  Which one is your favorite?  Do you have edition with other covers?  Please share and comment below!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on June 5, 2013, in Art Interlude, General Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. My favorite (I’m dating myself) is the original–it’s the one I read and I’m not even familiar with most of the others (my students were not of a level to read this).

    • It’s not a bad cover in the slightest–I wasn’t aware of it until I did this blog post, but I did know about the 50th anniversary cover, just hadn’t realized they were paying homage to the original art.

  2. Do you happen to have the ISBN for the Yearling 1984 cover, with the detailed drawings of the three children? I’m trying to find a copy of this edition, to match my set of the other four books in the set. Thank you!

    • I don’t, sad to say–I can do some more looking into it. I have to fix some of those images anyway . . .

      • Thanks for getting back to me! There are lots of different paperback editions available on Amazon and Abe Books, but I have yet to see one available with that cover. I actually really like the design on the spine, as well.

      • That’s why that particular one is a guess from me rather than a definite, I’ll keep digging though . . .

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