A Swiftly Tilting Planet

When Mad Dog Branzillo, a leader of a small South American country, develops nuclear weapons, it seems the end of the world is at hand. Mad Dog is a crazy man full of hate who would be willing—eager even—to destroy the world. When Meg’s family hears this, there seems to be nothing to do but wait for the end of the world. But Mrs. O’Keefe, Meg’s mother-in-law, is suddenly reminded of an old Irish rune that her grandmother taught her about when she was a child. The rune is supposed to have great power, but can only be used in the time of greatest need.

Meg’s little brother Charles Wallace decides to use the rune. When he does so, he is sent a unicorn who can ride the winds of time. The unicorn tells him that history is full of Might-Have-Beens, where a single decision could change the course of history. To save the world, the unicorn takes Charles Wallace back in time and sends him ‘within’ the lives of several people—from the first Native American settlers to the Civil War period. As a passenger in these people, Charles becomes them. He sees what they see and hears what they hear. But he is able, perhaps, to nudge them in a better direction and change the vital Might-Have-Beens that lead to Mad Dog Branzillo.

L’Engle’s book is an allegorical tale that explores the battle of good and evil that started when the fallen angels were banished from heaven. While most of the story is phrased in terms of good and evil, there are points where the unicorn mentions heaven, angels, and other biblical concepts explicitly. In addition, when Charles Wallace visits a settlement in the time of the Salem Witch Trials, God is discussed frequently and scripture is used both by the pastor trying to condemn a woman and by the man defending her.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet is all about the importance of choices, even those that seem small. It explores two family lines: one family who leaned toward violence and hungered for power, and another family who promoted peace and friendship. The two family lines parallel the struggle between good and evil, heaven and darkness. While the story is enjoyable and full of good messages, there are many characters that Charles interacts with throughout history whose many names may become confusing for less advanced readers. For those able to follow the complicated family lines and keep track of the many names, A Swiftly Tilting Planet is yet another fun ride in the Time Quintet.

Sexual Content

  • A pregnant Native American woman uses “birthing flowers” to prepare for her birth. “She knelt and breathed in the fragrance of the blossoms, took them up in her hands, and pressed them against her forehead, her lips, her breasts, against the roundness of her belly.”
  • A boy reports that his sister and the hired hand were “kissing.”

Violence

  • Two brothers fight. The brother who wins holds his brother’s head underwater until his brother promises to leave and never come back. “Madoc forced Gwydyr into the lake, and held him down under the water until rising bubbles told him that his brother was screaming for mercy.”
  • The unicorn is injured. “The entire abdominal area, where the webbed hammock had rubbed, was raw and oozing blood. The water which had flooded from [his] nostrils was pinkish.”
  • When she was an only child, Mrs. O’Keefe’s mother “came to breakfast with a black eye, explaining that she had bumped into a door in the dark.” It’s clear that her new husband abuses her.
  • Mrs. O’Keefe’s stepfather boxed her brother’s ears and pinched her inappropriately as a child. When her grandmother tried to intervene, the man tried to hit her. “Chuck thrust himself between his grandmother and stepfather and took the full force of Mortmain’s blow. Again Breezie screamed, as Chuck fell, fell down the steep stairs in a shower of broken china and glass.”
  • A girl says she saw Jack O’Keefe “take a homeless puppy and kill it by flinging it against the wall of the barn.”
  • A man comes back from war and says, “I saw a man with his face blown off and no mouth to scream with, and yet he screamed and could not die. I saw two brothers, and one was in blue and one was in grey, and I will not tell you which one took his saber and ran it through the other.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Charles Wallace’s family has plum pudding. “Mr. Murry got a bottle of brandy and poured it liberally over the pudding…The brandy burned with a brilliant blue flame . . . Mr. Murry tilted the dish so that all the brandy would burn.”

Language

  • “God” and “Oh God” are used a few times. They are said in devoted ways, not as profane exclamations.
  • A woman says, “Thank God,” when she learns that her son is alive.
  • A man writes a letter describing a Native American who helped the settlers: “God knows he is helpful.”
  • When his friend is giving birth, Brandon prays, “Oh God, God, make Zylle be all right.”

Supernatural

  • Mrs. O’Keefe gives Charles Wallace a rune that her grandmother gave her as a child. It calls upon heaven to stand against the darkness, and Charles uses pieces of the rune when he is in danger. The first time he says, “In this fateful hour I call on all Heaven with its power!” and a unicorn appears to help him. Another time, he says, “And the fire with all the strength it hath,” and the sun causes a pile of flowers to burst into flames.
  • Charles Wallace and his sister Meg know how to kythe, which is a deeper form of telepathy that “was being able to be with someone else, no matter how far away they might be…talking in a language that was deeper than words.” In this way, Meg is able to be with her brother even when he goes on a long journey.
  • Charles Wallace travels in time with a unicorn. “Slowly the radiance took on form, until it had enfleshed itself into the body of a great white beast with flowing mane and tail. From its forehead sprang a silver horn which contained the residue of the light.”
  • Charles Wallace goes back in time to prevent a madman from destroying the world. The unicorn explains, “What we must do is find the Might-Have-Beens which have led to this particular evil. I have seen many Might-Have-Beens. If such and such had been chosen, then this would not have followed. If so and so had been done, then the light would partner the dark instead of being snuffed out. It is possible that you can move into the moment of a Might-Have-Been and change it.”
  • Twice, Charles Wallace is blown into a Projection, which is “a possible future, a future the Echthroi want to make real.” The first time, they arrive in a lava world and see a “monstrous creature with a great blotched body, short stumps for legs, and long arms, with the hands brushing the ground. What was left of the face was scabrous and suppurating.”
  • A Native American says, “When the soothsayer looked into the scrying glass and foretold my father’s death, he saw also that I would live my days far from Gwynedd.”
  • A Native American sees a vision of the future in the reflection of a pond. “He feared the small oval of water which reflected Gwydyr’s face, growing larger and larger, and darker and darker, quivering until it was no longer the face of a man but of a screaming baby.”
  • Brandon, an early North American settler, sees pictures of the future. A Native American tells him, “Among my people you would be known as a Seer, and you would be having the training in prayer and trusting that would keep your gift very close to the gods, from whom the gift comes.”
  • When injured, the unicorn takes Charles Wallace to his planet in order to be healed. There the snow heals them, the unicorn drinks liquid moonlight, and Charles Wallace sees a unicorn hatch from an egg. “A sharp cracking, and a flash of brilliance as the horn thrust up and out into the pearly air, followed by a head with the silver mane clinging damply to neck and forehead. Dark silver-lashed eyes opened slowly, and the baby unicorn looked around.”

Spiritual Content

  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet is an allegorical story about the powers of good and evil, of light and darkness, of heaven’s creation and those who would want to destroy everything. There are many references to this battle throughout the book, beginning with the following description of the Echthros, the enemy of everything good. “The Echthros wanted all the glory for itself, and when that happens the good becomes not good; and others have followed that first Echthros. Wherever the Echthroi go, the shadows follow…There are places where no one has ever heard the ancient harmonies.”
  • Charles meets ancient Native Americans. They have many songs, some of which refer to “Lords of snow and rain and water.” This song eventually becomes a prayer: “Lords of blue and Lords of gold, Lords of winds and waters wild, Lords of time that’s growing old.”
  • When speaking of dead spirits struggling to find peace, a Native American asks, “Are the gods of Gwynedd so weak they cannot care for their own?”
  • A man says, “For brothers to wish to kill each other for the sake of power is to anger the gods.”
  • Ritchie, an early North American settler, says, “I cannot find it in me to believe that God enjoys long faces and scowls at merriment.”
  • When his daughter gives birth, Ritchie reads from the Bible. “I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous. I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.”
  • Charles Wallace visits the time period of the Salem Witch Trials, where there is much talk of witches, of good and evil, and of spirits. For example, one boy says, “My father says there are evil spirits abroad, hardening men’s hearts.” The pastor claims a Native American woman is a witch and it is God’s will that she be killed. The Native American woman’s father-in-law uses scripture to defend her, but the townspeople won’t listen.
  • Mrs. O’Keefe’s grandmother said several times that her dead husband is “waiting for me” before she passed away.
  • A man speaks about the Civil War. “Oh God, it was brother against brother, Cain and Abel all over again. And I was turned into Cain. What would God have to do with a nation where brothers can turn against each other with such brutality?” He later says, “There were many nights during the war when God withdrew from our battle fields. When the songs of men fight against each other in hardness of heart, why should God not withdraw? Slavery is evil, God knows, but war is evil, too, evil, evil.”

by Morgan Lynn

The Burning Queen

In the second installment of Tangled in Time, newly orphaned Rose finds herself time-traveling between the present day and the court of the two most memorable English princesses in history. When Princess Mary ascends the throne in sixteenth-century England, Rose is forced to serve her. Mary’s coronation is coming and Rose is put to work making elaborate gowns. But the religiously devout queen’s next plan is to begin her attack on the Protestants—by burning them at the stake!

Rose’s dad, master spy, and goldsmith for the court, urges Rose to escape to her home century, present-day Indiana, where Rose befriends a young immigrant named Marisol. Rose must protect Marisol from both middle school mean girls and the threat of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Rose is determined to rescue her father and her best friend Franny from the dangers of Queen Mary’s reign. Is she willing to risk everything to save the people closest to her?

Readers who have not read the first Tangled in Time will not be able to understand the events in The Burning Queen. The story focuses on Rose and her friend Marisol, who is undocumented and an unaccompanied minor. Because of her immigration status, Marisol is frightened that ICE will take her to a detention center. Through Marisol’s situation, the pro-immigrant message is clear. This theme is reinforced when a doctor says, “many of us have been migrants at one time in our lives. It is not a crime.”

The story has many inconsistencies and questionable events. Even though the time travel is explained, the explanation is unbelievable. For example, when Rose returns to the past, she somehow knows everything that happened in her absence, and no one noticed that she was gone. Another questionable event is that Rose returns to the past in order to convince her father to travel to her time period; however, when she returns to the past, she hides from her father. In addition, Rose uses modern words and phrases and when people in the past question her, she “blamed every modern phrase she accidentally uttered on West Ditch, her supposed home village.”

Rose has a fashion blog that includes sixteenth-century fashion and modern fashion. Several of her blog posts are included; however, the pictures are of poor quality and do not reflect a modern teen’s blog. Rose uses words from her school vocabulary list, such as ecumenical and alacrity, but she never explains the words’ definitions.

The Burning Queen has many inconsistencies and holes in the plot that even younger readers will question. The complex, confusing plot, the questionable events, and the large cast of characters will make it difficult for readers to stay engaged. Readers may want to leave The Burning Queen on the shelf. For those interested in stories about time travel, the Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier would make a better choice.

Sexual Content

  • Some of the serving class are talking about Queen Mary being healthy enough to carry a child. Rose says, “I think she should bear a husband first. . . All I’m saying is it’s best to have a husband before having a child.”
  • While walking through the castle, Rose sees “two shadows entwined behind a pillar. One shadow was speaking. ‘Oh, I just want to kiss you, my darling. Kiss you and kiss you and don’t make me cry, milady, don’t make me lie, milady.’” Rose thinks it’s curious that the shadows’ words are similar to a modern song, “I just want to make out with you. I want to make time with you. I want to be true to you and only you. . .”
  • Rose has to climb underneath a dinner table to fix Queen Mary’s skirt. While under there, she recognizes a lady’s shoes. “Both her feet and those of the gentleman next to her were involved in an apparently lively conversation. What a hussy!”
  • On Rose’s blog, she wrote that a duchess “got around.”
  • Rose makes a comment that “Elizabeth would be the Virgin Queen.”

Violence

  • When Rose goes back in time, she discovers that Queen Mary “was burning Protestants. . . Burning, hangings, what would be next? Boiling in oil? Oh, the sixteenth-century mind was so creative in devising ways to kill people.”
  • As Rose learns about Queen Mary, she discovers that Lady Jane Grey was the queen for nine days, and in the end was imprisoned and beheaded.
  • Although Rose doesn’t see anyone burned, she comments about the smell and writes in her diary. “The queen seems not to smell it, and as far as I can tell she looks no bigger. If I was that baby, I wouldn’t want to be born. Imagine having your first breath of air filled with the stink of these murders. Yuck! Of course some seem not to mind the stink. . .”
  • Rose writes in her diary, “And I was told that often they tie bags of gunpowder between the victim’s knees to ensure that the person was not only burned but blown to bits.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Rose’s grandmother was “sipping a glass of sherry—just one glass on these cold winter nights.”

Language

  • A mean girl purposely trips Marisol, who drops her lunch tray. When food gets on another girl’s sweater, someone calls Marisol “stupido.”
  • Rose tells Marisol that the mean girls are “jerks.” Later someone else calls someone a jerk.
  • Heck and damn are both used twice. Darn is used four times and dang is used three times.
  • God is used as an exclamation three times. OMG is used as an exclamation eight times.
  • Someone uses “good Lord” as an exclamation.
  • Rose gets upset when a Frosty snowman kept singing a song. Rose thinks, “Go to hell, Frosty, and Melt!”
  • A lady calls a court jester a “loathsome dwarf.”
  • When Rose goes back in time, she uses the acronym TOD. When someone asks what it means, Rose says, “Turd of a dog.”
  • Jeez is used as an exclamation several times.
  • Rose gives her father a gift, and then thinks, “God, what have I done?”
  • Rose tells a girl, “Put a plug in your pug mouth.”
  • Someone calls Rose an idiot.
  • Someone uses “Oh God’s toes” as an exclamation.
    Supernatural
  • Rose’s father is from the 1500s and lived during Bloody Mary’s reign. Rose can go back in time to her father’s time period. In order to go back in time, Rose concentrates on a flower. “Marisol watched, mesmerized, as a vaporous mist began to form around Rose and she slowly dissolved, leaving just a shadow behind. Then a whisper came from the mist, ‘I’ll be back in just a minute or two.’”
  • The women in Rose’s family are able to travel back in time because “we have the gene.”
  • When Rose goes back to the past, she remembers events that she did not witness. “It was a memory she had not forgotten in the least, yet she had not directly experienced it. Her shadow had. Her ghostly counterpart that seemed to carry on without her.”

Spiritual Content

  • When Rose sees Princess Elizabeth wearing her locket, Rose prays, “Oh please, don’t let Princess Elizabeth figure out the secret to opening that locket!” Rose makes this prayer several times.
  • When Marisol falls down in the snow, Rose prays that her grandmother’s driver will answer the phone.
  • Queen Mary was a devout Catholic. Before her coronation, “there was talk of postponing the event. Holy oils that had been consecrated by the previous kings’ priests were used for coronations. But Mary was suspicious of the oil because those priests were Protestants and she was Catholic.”
  • During the sixteenth century, “the pope’s power cannot be questioned. Nor can Queen Mary’s.” When this information is introduced, Rose worries that her friend will be burned alive because she has a Bible. Rose “was absolutely dizzy with fear, with shock. She shut her eyes tight and tried to banish the image of Franny being tied to a stake. The kindling bursting into flames. Then another image came into her mind—the smugglers, the ones they called coyotes, circling Marisol. And the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers. . .”
  • On Christmas Eve, “Marisol was on her knees again, whispering her prayers in Spanish.”
  • Rose wants her Protestant friend to go to mass and pretend to be a devout Catholic. Her friend’s mother tells her, “Only God can see into your heart. He knows what your true faith is.” When Queen Mary is excited about having her baby, Rose thinks, “A baby whose mother had just given the order to set another human on fire for not believing as she did. No God in any religion on earth would want this. Of this Rose was certain.”
  • Queen Mary dictates in a letter, “I’m sure you will rejoice and be pleased with God’s infinite goodness in the happy delivery of our son/daughter.”
  • Rose writes in her diary. “I don’t think God is exactly Mary’s friend. If he is, I am profoundly disappointed in him. There have been ten more burnings!”

No Parking At The End Times

Brother John claims that Jesus Christ is going to bring judgment at the end the world, which is near. Abigail’s parents believed him, so they sold everything they owned, loaded up a van, and moved 3,000 miles away to San Francisco. Now Abigail and her twin brother Alex are living out of a van. They eat in soup kitchens. They clean up in public bathrooms.

Abigail tries to look at the positive side of life. But when her brother begins sneaking out of the van at night, Abigail has to know where he goes. Soon Abigail is trying to keep her family together—but her father and mother are hyper-focused on the church, her brother is consumed with anger, and Abigail isn’t sure what is right anymore.

When the day Brother John said the world will end comes without disaster, Abigail realizes that her parents’ commitment to Brother John and his church may bring an end to her family.

No Parking At The End Times shows one family’s struggle to follow the right path. Unfortunately, their decision to follow a religious leader has led to hardship. As Abigail’s parents follow Brother John and wait for the end of the world, they stop caring for their children’s needs and lose the need to plan for their children’s futures. Although it is clear that the parents love their children, they are so focused on Brother John that they lose sight of what is really important.

Brother John is a main focal point of the story, and he uses the words of the Bible to con people into giving everything to his church. Abigail begins to struggle with her beliefs about God and in the end, it is unclear if Abigail’s faith has been destroyed by her experience.

Although No Parking At The End Times has little violence, the book is best suited for older readers because of its mature content. There is a scene where Abigail is in danger of being raped. Although it is not directly stated, it is implied that Aaron’s girlfriend is raped not only by a drug dealer but also by her mother’s boyfriend.

This story is interesting and enjoyable. However, the book revolves around a man who uses God’s word to manipulate people. Younger readers may have a difficult time understanding that Brother John is a false prophet who uses God’s word for his own gain.

Sexual Content

  • Aaron has a girlfriend who kisses him in front of Abigail, which embarrasses him.
  • At the park, a man yells at a bunch of homeless kids, “It is possible for me to rent bikes and not have you sit up here all day jerking off?”
  • A drug dealer, Skeetch, corners Abigail. “He pushes me against the sculpture hard, bruising my back and holding my hands above my head . . . He pushes me hard against the cement sculpture and laughs . . . He smiles, letting go of my hands long enough for me to reach out and claw him. His skin rips under my nails. I feel the blood. In pure instinct, I put my knee between his legs as hard as I can, again and again unit he falls on the ground.”
  • Aaron’s girlfriend talks about how she ran away from home when she was fourteen because her mom’s boyfriends, “liked me more than her. And she either didn’t care or didn’t want to believe it.”

Violence

  • It is implied that Skeetch raped Jess, Aaron’s girlfriend. Skeetch also beat her up. “Her face is swollen and splashed with cuts. A red line splits her bottom lip, darker than her hair.” Abigail wonders if Skeetch went after Jess because of her and Jess said, “Fuck that. It’s his fault. You didn’t do shit.”
  • When someone makes fun of their parents, Aaron hits him on the nose. “Mike fell back in his chair, blood streaming down his face, onto his shirt. Shane, one of Aaron’s other friends, grabbed him before he could punch Mike again.”
  • Skeetch beats Aaron so bad that Aaron ends up in the hospital. The fight is not described, but the wounds are. “His face is broken. There are cuts and bruises and his nose is bent sideways. One eye focuses on me while the other, blood red and beginning to swell, stares vacantly over my shoulder. He tries to sit up, but a painful gurgling sound brings him back to the grass.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • At the park where Abigail and Aaron go, there are drug dealers. One dealer, Skeetch, gives a group of street kids a “small baggie.”
  • Abigail remembers a story about when her brother was at a party and had a beer, which upset her. “Aaron tried to hide his cup, his face. But I made it a point to stare at both.”

Language

  • The teens in the story use profanity often including damn, hell, shit, and holy crap.
  • “Jesus Christ” is used as profanity.
  • Abigail and Aaron get into an argument and Aaron yells, “Jesus, why do you defend them?  They fucked up. Big-time.”
  • When two teens begin to argue, someone said, “Let’s not ruin a good night trying to figure out which one of you is the bigger asshole.”
  • Aaron calls Brother John, “the Body of Christ’s Asshole.”
  • Skeetch calls Abagail a, “fucking bitch.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Abigail’s parents often remind her and her brother about God’s word saying such things as, “God provides everything we need.”
  • Abigail wonders why her brother can’t believe in God. She thinks, “Because maybe if we both pretend for a few minutes, God will see we’re trying and do something.”
  • During the church services, people jump from their seats, drop to the floor, and worship God.  During one conversation, Brother John said, “It’s the Lord’s world. He does with it as He pleases.”
  • When Brother John admits he got the date for the end of the world wrong, he reminds people that God is good. Abigail thinks, “God is God and you do not question that goodness. Everything happens for a reason. We’re supposed to sit down here waiting until God gets ready.”
  • Abigail wonders if God is real. “Habit tells me to send a prayer, something quick and silent, shooting into the sky—but I’m not sure that will help anymore.”
  • Abigail compares her father to God. “Dad isn’t listening to what I’m saying anymore, just like God. They’re both preprogrammed to a default setting, running forward blindly.”
  • Brother John tries to convince Abigail’s parents that they need to focus on God only.  When Abigail and Aaron become a distraction, Brother John said, “God asked us to cut away the withered branches in our lives. That’s what I know.” When Abigail’s father leaves to go help his son, Brother John said, “go ahead and leave, but God isn’t going to let you come back in.”

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