Lessons Learned From the Austin Family – Books That Inspire


As an only child, I reveled in reading about a large, noisy and happy family.  The Austin Family.  Madeleine L’Engle again influenced and shaped everything I was to become with her deeper than surface writing.  As an author, she never talks down to children.  She expects them to handle difficult issues, death, life and everything in between.  She forces the reader to see what is of eternal value.

These books are theologically “safer” than the time quintet.  The star, Vicky Austin, has a grandfather who is a retired minister and any doubts about God and life are generally run by him and his wise and Judeo-Christian mind.

And although Vicky deals with feelings of sexual awareness and attraction to the dark and brooding Zachary at a rather young age, I am reminded that these books were written in the late 60’s and early 70’s when love and marriage were accepted at a much younger age.

What did I learn from the Austin series?

1.  How to deal with a changed plan.  The Austins have the balance of their family rhythm tampered with when a hurting, recently orphaned Maggie comes to live with them.

2.  How to plan a great practical joke.  Don’t ask – just read Meet the Austins.  I also learned that practical jokes rarely have a happy outcome.

3.  I learned that I wanted to experience an ice storm at some point in my life.

4.  I learned my favorite poem…ever.

If thou could`st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, `This is not dead`,
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes, He says, `This is enow
Unto itself – `twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.

Sir Thomas Browne  (apparently, a kind reader told me that it is a common misconception that Sir Thomas Browne wrote this poem.  You can check out his information here:  http://penelope.uchicago.edu/false.shtml

5.  I learned that I’d like to go camping across the country(It’s actually on my bucket list because of the second book Moon By Night.)

6.  I learned about the fascination of a bad boy to a good girl.  (And what to do with it.)

7.  I learned tons about marine biology.

8.  I learned about death, and how I’d like to handle it gracefully.

9.  I learned about the right guy rather than the exciting guy.

The Ring of Endless Light was a Newberry Honor Book.  For more detailed review of these books visit The Christian Scribbler.

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12 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From the Austin Family – Books That Inspire

  1. Great lessons! I loved my books…the ones geared towards girls. I like #3. I didn’t want to experience an ice storm per se, but I knew I wanted to learn to ice skate.
    PS My mother was an only child of only children who raised 4 of us.

  2. Can’t say I’ve ever read the books. I can say I’ve gone through more ice storms than I care to count, and never really saw the appeal – give me a 1967-style Great Chicago Blizzard any time!
    And I learned FAR too much about good girls and bad boys. I was always the friend, the one the girls came running to for support, the one who would tell them they deserved better, and the one they would promptly leave for the next bad boy. It made for a LONG 4 years of high school!
    And I’d like to think the right guy CAN be exciting – though in my case, maybe a bit TOO exciting at times! (With a grateful nod to my wife for not only allowing me to play army, but to join me in it as well. She is MY greatest blessing.)

  3. I pretty much love everything L’Engle wrote, including this series, at any age. As you note, she doesn’t “talk down” to teens or tweens, but there is much deep thought to ponder for readers of any age in her books. Her religious leanings/beliefs are an integral part of all her work, but not in an “in your face” way, which makes them more, rather than less appealing, IMO.

    • I pretty much love all things Madeleine as well. She writes about her faith in exactly the way I would like to, because it’s part of her, not because she’s manipulating a story around a message.

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