A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Book review by
Cindy Kane, Common Sense Media
A Swiftly Tilting Planet Book Poster Image
A teenager saves the world from destruction.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 9 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.


The threat of a nuclear war that could wipe out the entire galaxy looms.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book offers a fascinating range of characters and concepts, though some readers might find the shifting storylines confusing. Spanning prehistoric times to the present, the story is a virtual trip through the history of the Americas as well as a complex family saga. The text blends multiple points of view, imagery, and poetry, and touches on violence in a non-direct way by injecting the threat of nuclear war into the story line.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLaura M. August 11, 2019

Themes are more mature than first 2 books in series

My 10 year old daughter and myself read the classic, A Wrinkle In Time and also read A Wind In The Door and greatly enjoyed both.
The 3rd book, A Swiftly Til... Continue reading
Parent of a 5 and 9-year-old Written byMary N October 24, 2017

Entertaining and thought provoking but a little intense for some kids

This book is a lot more intense than the previous two in the series (A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door). There are a few scenes of violence (a woman in P... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byKuanYou July 18, 2016

Great-to-stick-your-eyes-to Book

If you want to try out this book, this is the best book you will ever read ( For me ) But it's a great book to read when you have some free time. But I giv... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old June 3, 2009


Some people are saying it's confusing, but I think that if you actually read, and don't just skim it, then it's the best book ever. It is the mo... Continue reading

What's the story?

On Thanksgiving Day, recently married Meg Murry O'Keefe is visiting her family when her father receives a call from the president. A power-hungry South American dictator called "Mad Dog" Branzillo is threatening nuclear war. The news prompts Meg's strange mother-in-law, who shares Branzillo's ancestry, to recite an ancient family rune that causes strange weather disturbances.

It's up to Meg's fifteen-year-old brother, Charles Wallace, to use the rune as he journeys through time, searching for the "Might Have Beens" that led to this crisis. With a unicorn named Gaudior as his guide, Charles Wallace travels in and out of five of Branzillo's ancestors, from prehistoric time tothe 1860s, encountering tensions between two feuding brothers in each generation.

Helped by Meg, who wordlessly links her thoughts with his through kything, Charles Wallace changes the pattern of history and saves the world from destruction.

Is it any good?

The saga is well crafted with some scenes that are truly exciting, such as the rescue of a woman in Puritan times from being hanged for witchcraft. The plot does demand close attention, though. For instance, every generation Charles Wallace visits has a blue-eyed descendant of the Native American woman Zyll, and one 12-year-old reader couldn't keep all the variations on her name (Zylle, Zillah, Zillie) straight.

L'Engle offers plenty of clues about the interlocking generations, which are fun to piece together. In fact, some characters arrive very late at conclusions the reader will have reached early on. ("Duh!" said the 12-year-old at one point, heaping scorn on Mrs. Murry's two Ph.D.s.) Criticism aside, patient readers will be rewarded with a well-sustained story line and a spine-tingling ending.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how this story connects to other books in the Chronos Quartet series. Which of these characters have appeared in the author's other books? In what ways have they changed or grown since we first met them? Families can also discuss the broader concept of "Might-Have-Beens." Is there any might-have-been moment in your own life that you'd like to go back and change?

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