Meet the Austins
By Madeleine L'Engle
(Square Fish, Paperback, 9780312379315, 240pp.)
Publication Date: September 2, 2008
For a family with four kids, two dogs, assorted cats, and a constant stream of family and friends dropping by, life in the Austin family home has always been remarkably steady and contented. When a family friend suddenly dies in a plane crash, the Austins open their home to an orphaned girl, Maggy Hamilton. The Austin children—Vicky, John, Suzy, and Rob—do their best to be generous and welcoming to Maggy.
Vicky knows she should feel sorry for Maggy, but having sympathy for Maggy is no easy thing. Maggy is moody and spoiled; she breaks toys, wakes people in the middle of the night screaming, discourages homework, and generally causes chaos in the Austin household. How can one small child disrupt a family of six? Will life ever return to normal?
Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007) was the Newbery Medal-winning author of more than 60 books, including the much-loved A Wrinkle in Time. Born in 1918, L’Engle grew up in New York City, Switzerland, South Carolina and Massachusetts. Her father was a reporter and her mother had studied to be a pianist, and their house was always full of musicians and theater people. L’Engle graduated cum laude from Smith College, then returned to New York to work in the theater. While touring with a play, she wrote her first book, The Small Rain, originally published in 1945. She met her future husband, Hugh Franklin, when they both appeared in The Cherry Orchard. Upon becoming Mrs. Franklin, L’Engle gave up the stage in favor of the typewriter. In the years her three children were growing up, she wrote four more novels. Hugh Franklin temporarily retired from the theater, and the family moved to western Connecticut and for ten years ran a general store. Her book Meet the Austins, an American Library Association Notable Children's Book of 1960, was based on this experience. Her science fantasy classic A Wrinkle in Time was awarded the 1963 Newbery Medal. Two companion novels, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (a Newbery Honor book), complete what has come to be known as The Time Trilogy, a series that continues to grow in popularity with a new generation of readers. Her 1980 book A Ring of Endless Light won the Newbery Honor. L’Engle passed away in 2007 in Litchfield, Connecticut.
“A family story that simply doesn’t date, characters ring as true now as I’m sure they ever did.”—Charlotte Jones Voiklis, Granddaughter of Madeleine L’Engle
“Yes, by all means ‘meet the Austins,’ for a nicer family would be hard to find. The book is beautifully written, with integrity and warmth, and young people are bound to identify with the characters, each a person in his own right, and to read absorbed from first page to last. Thoroughly recommended.”—Chicago Tribune
“An unusual book. . . . There are intimate details of home life that everyone will recognize with pleasure; there is great warmth in the family relationship, and it is movingly communicated.”—The New York Times
“Told with warmth and humor, this is a perceptive, forthright story of a loving and likeable family.”—Booklist
“Her books . . . tend to be about the intersection of some fantastic unearthly world and the ordinary world in which we live.”—Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket)
“. . . [an] ode to faith and family . . .”—Quin Hillyer, American Spectator