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