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Meet the Austins (Austin Family) Hardcover – October 30, 1997

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Editorial Reviews Review

Reading award-winning author Madeleine L'Engle's Meet the Austins is like taking a vacation with the warm, compassionate Austins--an extraordinary family who takes a little girl named Maggy Hamilton under its wing when her father is killed in a plane accident. Adjusting to a new household member is not easy, as the 12-year-old narrator, Vicky, will testify. Maggy is spoiled, "ubiquitous," laughs in a "horrid, screechy way," and appears to be a child of an entirely different species from the thoughtful, intelligent, kind, yet not cloyingly so, Austin kids. Still, Vicky and her other siblings (Rob, Suzy, and John) grit their collective teeth and struggle to understand her, which becomes easier and easier as the loving family seems to rub off on the newly orphaned Maggy.

The Austins are beyond question a charming family, but their path is by no means rock-free: Vicky sneaks off to a friend's house and severely injures herself in a bike accident, they all get the measles, John is beat up after his guest sermon in church, and they almost lose little Rob. Despite ordinary family setbacks, there's no use pretending this is a run-of-the-mill family. When Vicky is sick, her older brother, John, comes into her room and soothes her with a discussion of the solar system, our atomic composition, and the relativity of size. Family dinner-table talk includes the ethics of meat eating, and a chat with Grandfather ends up with a discussion of whether Einstein believed in God. As in all of L'Engle's novels, she asks the big questions: What is the meaning of life, and how does death fit into that? Are there different kinds of intelligence? What happens when you remove a screw from a radiator? This strangely comforting novel, first published in 1960, is an ALA Notable Book, and was followed by four other books featuring the Austin Family: The Moon by Night, The Young Unicorns, A Ring of Endless Light (a Newbery Honor Book), and Troubling a Star. (Ages 9 to 12) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“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

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 11 - 16 years
  • Grade Level: 6 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1080L (What's this?)
  • Series: Austin Family (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (October 30, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374349290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374349295
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #953,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Madeleine L'Engle, the popular author of many books for children and adults, has interspersed her writing and teaching career with raising three children, maintaining an apartment in New York and a farmhouse of charming confusion which is called "Crosswicks."

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Karen F. Blocher on February 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When Meet the Austins was first published in 1960, standards and sensibilities in childrens/young adult publishing were very different from what they are now. Madeleine L'Engle had a great deal of trouble selling this book because it began with a death, which was considered too upsetting for children to handle.
Even when Vanguard Press agreed to publish it, the novel was not published intact. An entire chapter, entitled The Anti-Muffins, was omitted. The chapter was about a small club of children who believe that people should not be too much like muffins, i.e., looking and behaving the same, and judged by superficial criteria (if it comes from the oven, it must be a muffin). It's hard to say after all these years whether the anti-conformist message was considered dangerous, or whether someone was upset by the middle class WASP kids being good friends with a poor Hispanic farm boy.
In 1980, The Pilgrim Press published The Anti-Muffins as a separate book. It has long-since gone out of print, and is considered rare. That hasn't stopped L'Engle fans from looking for the book ever since, so that they can read this missing chapter in the lives of the Austin family.
I'm glad to say this is no longer necessary. The current Farrar Straus Giroux edition of Meet the Austins, first published in 1997, restores The Anti-Muffins material back into the novel from which it was cut. (I'm pretty sure that even now, in 2002, the paperback edition still does not have this extra material.) If you're a fan of L'Engle's fiction, and especially of the books about Vicky Austin and her family, spend the extra money and get the hardcover. You won't regret it! ...
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Nina M. Osier on November 11, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Twelve-year-old Vicky Austin has a secure and happy home with her physician father, homemaker mother, older brother John, and younger siblings Suzy and Rob, in their big house outside a small American town. The Austins practice an unpretentious but fully committed brand of Christianity, and despite normal squabbling and adolescent angst their elder daughter knows she is surrounded by love and treasures it.
Then Maggy Hamilton, ten years old and newly orphaned, lands in their midst and does her best to change everything. For a time this little girl who has never known a real home before does a good job of disrupting the Austins' lives. To Maggy, toys are for breaking (her rich grandfather will replace them on demand, so why not?) and so are rules. Yet like all children, Maggy desperately wants to be loved. Can the Austins love her in spite of her obnoxious behavior? Or will her presence tear their happy family apart?
The answer to that question may be predictable, but the way it happens isn't predictable at all. Vicky as narrator has a sweet but decidedly not saccharine voice, and an outlook on life as a budding woman that when this story was first published (copyright 1960) was positively revolutionary. I particularly love the way L'Engle imbues this and many of her other books with a matter-of-fact yet profound spiritual dimension, by depicting Christians who live their faith as if that were the most natural thing in the world.
I'm surprised I didn't find this book when I was at the age level for which it was written, since in 1960 I was 8 years old. However, all really fine children's literature can also be enjoyed by adult readers; and that's especially true of Madeleine L'Engle's work. I look forward now to reading the rest of the Austin series.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I love all the Austin stories. I was first introduced to the family through (I think) Women's Day magazine when I was 10. It was the "24 days till Christmas" story. A few years later, I came across the "Meet the Austins" book and felt like I found an old friend. I have probably read this book over 10 times and can't help but pick it up when I need an old friend. Vicky's struggles as a 12 year old learning her place in the family and at an "awkward" age between teenager and child is wonderfully written. I plan on buying my niece, who is 11, each Austin book for Christmas over the next few years so that she can also grow up with Vicky.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 3, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is one of my favorite books. I love all of Madeline L'Engle's works and this is one of her best. It is told through the eyes of Vicky who is a thirteen year old. Many changes occur with her normal and loving family. One of Vicky's mother's beloved friend's (a.k.a Aunt Elena)husband died along with his co-pilot. The co-pilot's daughter is an orphan and comes to live with the Austins temporarily. At first she is a spoiled little brat, but she ends up changing for the better. Just when she's become like a member of the family, her grand father is deciding her fate. Many think the family is too unreal because they are too trusting and are very old-fashioned, which they are, but they are still lovable. You should really put this book on your shelf now!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 5, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the best book by Madeleine L'Engle I ever read! I got it when I was eleven, I'm now thirteen, and sinse then I've probably read it ten or so times over. It's a grrrreaat family story, the characters are incredibly REAL, and the theme is just marvy. I wish I had the new version that has some new chapters that weren't in the book my grandmother gave me.
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