When I was growing up, one of my very favourite people was Renate.
The daughter of Holocaust survivors, she was married to an antiquarian bookseller, had 4 bright and articulate children close to me in age, of whom I was somewhat in awe, and understood better than anyone else my constant, consuming need to read.
Whenever she visited (and this was an era when mothers at home dropped in on each other at least once a week) she brought something for me to borrow and her Christmas and birthday presents were always a joy and a delight.
But I wasn't sure about the cover of the book that she gave me when I turned eight.
It looked a bit strange - that child's face with the rings was just plain weird.
And the background, the everyday context of the opening chapter, needed a bit of translating..This was America and there were unfamiliar words and situations. Just what was liverwurst? And why did Charles Wallace have a surname as part of his Christian name? I'd never met that anywhere else before?
But Meg I recognised. Meg struggled. Meg didn't fit in. She loved and cared and got things wrong - but in the end her gifts were enough. I loved her straight away....
And I read the book again and again and again till the (still scary) paperback cover began to wear out.
To my surprise, I met some words from that book in church...and it began to dawn on me that there were other things going on, other themes interwoven into the fabric of what I had embraced as just a wonderful tale (and something quite unlike what I'd previously encountered as "Science fiction")
When I was sad or frightened, I would try to join in the song of those wonderful winged creatures...or imagine myelf rocked in the arms of Aunt Beast.
For a year or two, I must have re-read A Wrinkle in Time at least once each term....and I always emerged feeling safer, more at home in my own world.
But I had no idea that this writer whose name I couldn't pronounce had other books to her credit...It wasn't until a book warehouse sale when my own children were at primary school that I discovered that there was so much more to be read.
Today, in common with so many others, I'm mourning the death of Madeleine L'Engle - but more than that, I'm so grateful for her life and her writing.