Goodnight Mister Tom was originally published when I had grown out of childish things, but was too young to have younger people around to read it to them. Puffin release a special edition for its 40th anniversary this week. They offered an ARC via Netgalley, so thank you for the opportunity of a free ebook to see whether it merits all the praise heaped upon it.
Goodnight Mister Tom
by Michelle Magorian
The gruff and surly Mr Thomas Oakley is less than pleased when he is landed with a scrawny little city boy as a guest, but because it is compulsory that each villager takes in an evacuee he reluctantly agrees. It soon becomes obvious to Mister Tom that young Willie Beech is hiding something, and as the pair begin to form an unlikely bond and Willie grows in stature and in confidence he begins to forget the past. But when he has to return to war-torn London to face his mother again he retreats into his shy and awkward ways once more.
Goodnight Mister Tom is one of the most touching and powerful stories ever written. As the relationship between Willie and Tom begins to transform them both, Magorian’s powerful yet gentle writing tugs at the heart, taking the reader on an incredibly emotional journey that never once stoops to unnecessary sentimentality. —Susan Harrison (goodreads)
Goodnight Mister Tom had already seeped into the recesses of my brain as a children’s book to match the credentials of those such as Wind in the Willows. The story of an evacuee from the East End of London to the wilds of somewhere, it could be predictable. In some ways, though, it set the pattern for other books that followed.
At the same time, the glory of the writing stopped any hint of the mundane. The prose sweeps along, heightening the senses, deepening the pain, excruciating the agony. Having started, I wanted to finish. But I needed the space to sink myself in this world, so marvellously brought back into reality.
It is a tour de force of settings as a character. The village, the city, the countryside, can only be that time and that place. Kids in the countryside could roam free of many parental controls, to run and laugh–and walk for miles to school. That was the way it was. Poor city kids were sewn into their underwear for winter–padded with newspaper to keep them warm. The whole contradictory range of kindness, pettiness, ‘jobs-worth’*, and blind bravery. And all this while waiting for Hitler to do something, and then Dunkirk, and then the Blitz.
The spirit of the book changes as the war progresses. Will and his friends start growing in a different direction–kicking against the old world, coming to terms with the new, in which anything is possible. Even girls going on to gain scholarships to the High School (school change at age 11-12)!
I wondered what all the fuss was about with this book. Now I’m in on the secret, and it’s wonderful. If you haven’t read it, grab this anniversary copy, with some nice extras at the back. It’s like Wind in the Willows for another generation.Book Review | Goodnight Mister Tom (40th Anniversary Edition) — if you missed it because you were too old or too young, you're in for a treat. Now I'm in on the secret, and it's wonderful. #GoodnightMisterTom #NetGalley Click To Tweet
- jobs-worth: an attitude that didn’t disappear till sometime in the 1980s–usually a petty customer-facing clerk to whom your very reasonable request was ‘more than their job’s worth’ for the person to do.