Little girls in glasses have showed us how to save the world from darkness for years. The journeys they take as they come into their power showcase their everyday bravery, helping us recognize our own strengths. To mark the release of Ava DuVernay’s bold new adaptation of A Wrinkle in TimePEN America and the Strand Book Store celebrated unconventional literary heroes with readings from Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel and related texts, presenting a canon of unorthodox saviors who invite us to examine the ways can be heroes too. With award-winning speculative fiction writer Alice Sola Kim, National Book Award nominated young adult author Ibi Zoboi, and Léna Roy and Charlotte Jones Voiklis, Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughters and biographers.


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal, A Wrinkle in Time broke new ground and continues to inspire today. It follows Meg Murry, her genius brother, Charles Wallace, and her friend, Calvin, on an adventure through time and space to find Meg and Charles Wallace’s father. Oscar-winning director Ava DuVernay has adapted this classic and empowering novel for the screen with a diverse cast, retelling the story as a “love letter for family and community, and the best in ourselves.”


Becoming Madeleine by Léna Roy and Charlotte Jones Voiklis
Léna Roy and Charlotte Jones Voiklis tell the incredible tale of their grandmother, Madeleine L’Engle, in this new middle-grade biography, which includes never-before-seen photographs, poems, letters, and journal entries that follow L’Engle through her childhood to the publication of A Wrinkle in Time. Just like her most well-known work, Becoming Madeleine is the story of a little girl who triumphs over loneliness and other burdens, and ends up showing the world that you can be and do whatever you set your mind to.


American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Unmoored by the arrest of her Haitian-born mother, at the intersection of American Street and Joy Road in one of Detroit’s most violent neighborhoods, Fabiola Toussaint finds refuge in her dreams. Simultaneously yearning for the past and inspired by the future, this National Book Award nominated book follows Fabiola as she faces the realities of violence and isolation, forms unexpected alliances, and imagines a better world.


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Junot Díaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, chronicles the life of an overweight Dominican boy in New Jersey, who is obsessed with science fiction, falling in love, and the curse that plagues his family. With wit and magic, the novel gives voice to the experiences of immigrant families during the Dominican diaspora, giving light to the folklore and politics of Santo Domingo.


The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
A revolutionary staple of feminist science fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness follows a lone human ambassador sent to the alien planet of Winter where gender discrimination is obsolete due to the ever-changing genders of its inhabitants. As the ambassador strives to create a bridge between Earth and this unknown world, they must also examine their own prejudices and the unexpected warmth of new relationships they encounter in Winter.


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
When Aristotle Mendoza meets Dante Quintana at a local swimming pool, it is the start of a unique and powerful friendship, and a journey that culminates with Aristotle realizing that he’s in love with his best friend. Beautifully written and hopeful, this novel examines adolescence, sexuality, friendship, family, race, and prejudice, as these two Mexican-American boys find their way in the world.


Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
This nonlinear narrative of this science fiction anti-war novel re-imagines the structure of fiction writing. It follows Billy Pilgrim as he survives capture by the Germans in World War II, the Dresden bombings, and the struggle for financial success . . . only to be kidnapped in a flying saucer and taken to the planet Tralfamadore. At times absurd but always captivating, Slaughterhouse-Five invites us to imagine new ways of making sense of the worlds around us through the story of Billy Pilgrim, who comes unstuck from time.


Octavia’s Brood edited by Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Marie Brown
This science-fiction anthology emphasizes social justice, with an homage to Octavia Butler. Taking the reader across the genres of science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and magical realism, each of the stories deals with real world issues of racism, prejudice, war, prison, capitalism, and climate change. This anthology features emerging writers from diverse backgrounds and abilities, as well as renowned names like LeVar Burton and Mumia Abu-Jamal, an incarcerated activist from the Black Panther party.


Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson
Kamala Khan is a teenage, Muslim girl from New Jersey who suddenly has extraordinary powers thrust upon her. This graphic-novel saga follows Kamala as she takes on the mantle of Ms. Marvel and realizes the full potential of these gifts. She begins to question, however: Is she truly ready to take the weight of the world on her young shoulders?


Kindred by Octavia Butler
In this beloved science fiction novel, Octavia Butler tells the story of a young Black woman who is abruptly transported to a plantation in antebellum Maryland, where it is immediately assumed that she is a slave. The story takes an unflinching approach to the time travel narrative, bringing the conditions of slavery to light through her protagonists’ travel into the past.


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Adams’ literary masterpiece transports readers into a galaxy of manic aliens, depressed robots, and intergalactic bureaucracy on the search for the meaning of life, and, most of all, a good cup of tea, as Arthur Dent, the unassuming anti-hero of this science fiction classic, hitchhikes his way across the universe. Equal parts satire and science fiction, the Hitchhiker’s trilogy (in five parts) leaves the reader considering the improbable, with the sudden realization that heroes can be ordinary people in dressing gowns.


All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Co-written by two award-winning authors, this book candidly addresses issues of race as it follows one black teen, Rashad, and one white teen, Quinn, after Quinn witnesses Rashad being beaten by a police officer. Honest and affecting, this book takes on racism, police brutality, and finding the courage to become more than a bystander.


Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Browne
This book captures the energy of Mahogany L. Browne’s passionate spoken word poem of the same title, an affirmation of the power, beauty, and fierce and authentic magic of young Black girls.


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
This beloved novel follows hobbit Bilbo Baggins on an unexpected journey with a wizard and a merry band of dwarves. Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings elaborate on the idea that even the smallest person can save the world, with riddles and magic rings, and heart.


The Giver by Lois Lowry
Set in a dystopian society where collective memories—fond and tragic—are the burden of one man, The Giver tells the story of 12-year-old Jonas and the sorrow and beauty he bears as he trains to take on this respected role. Restricted by the norms of his community’s “ideal” world, Jonas must deal with both the pain of his delicate society and the triumphant realization that perhaps there is great adventure and joy beyond it.