It’s always delightful to revisit books from my childhood. There is a security, a wholesomeness, in extremely good children’s books that can be matched by very few other literary works. Recently, I have been reading A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L’Engle. She was a Christian novelist very much in the tradition of C. S. Lewis. Her Christianity is more an expression of how she believes the universe works, the framework lying half-glimpsed under an adventure story, than an overstated bit of dogma sticking out of a story like a sore thumb.

This is the edition of A Wrinkle in Time that I read when I was young.

And this is important, because it is far too easy to write Christian children’s books that are truly awful. I will not name names, but I have read far too many that are quite simply poorly written and (what is worse) poorly edited. Characters—especially evil characters—can far too easily be painted without nuance. Plots are predictable, and happy endings are reached without any emotional depth. These books may be able to check of particular points of doctrine, but they are not good as stories—and this is a problem, because it is the story as a whole that shapes the reader, and not just the plot summary or the overt philosophy. When a child—or an adult—reads a shoddy piece of writing that has been labeled ‘Christian’, he learns a whole host of things. He may learn that good will win over evil, or that resolve is needed to do the right thing, or that God is ultimately in control. But he also learns that excellence in all things isn’t worth striving for, and that beauty isn’t important except as a vehicle for truth. Worst of all, given enough time, he will learn to associate Christianity with amateurism and boredom. He will think that the God who created stars and rainbows and aardvarks can only be worshiped by people who lack imagination, and he will be repulsed.

This is why it was so encouraging to me to read L’Engle’s works. Her books lack neither imagination nor emotional depth, and are crafted with a true sense of beauty. And always just below the surface thrums a strong trust in the love of God. In her books, even winged centaurs on distant planets and tiny beings within mitochondria sing praises to Him. I strongly encourage you to find these books in a library. If you have children—or parents—of the right age to be read to, read them aloud together. They are truly excellent.

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