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Tom’s Midnight Garden – Philippa Pearce

23 Apr

toms_midnight_gardenThirteen! proclaimed the clock, and then stopped striking.  Tom’s mind gave a jerk: had it really struck thirteen?

For Tom – angry and alone – the stroke of thirteen brings an escape to another time.

A magical, secret time and place, where friendships await and nothing is as it seems…

Look at this particularly fantastic cover it just screams out ‘read me’, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to do just that.  It wasn’t until I’d read the ending that I realised I had actually watched the wonderful BBC version in the 80’s, back when kids TV was made to be sinister and engrossing.  I may have to do a post on that….

I have long been a firm believer that silence challenges the reader’s imagination and as ever I chose that medium in which to immerse myself in this wonderful book, a masterpiece the cover says and in its genre it most certainly is that.

The book involves our titular hero Tom and revolves around a midnight garden (also titular), I know you had all ascertained that (as my readers are the most intelligent readers out there) but I am loath to say too much more other than that this is a beautiful book with elements of history, a coming of age story and even a bit of love.

Exploration, adventure and imagination are the key things for a book enjoyed by the young, if that can be combined with a sense of freedom, timelessness and an element of mystery, then you have something like this book which is very well written and slowly draws you in.  The pacing is constant and gradual, never rushed and allows enough time to see the beautiful characteristics of nature and feel the anguish and wonder of our hero in his struggles…okay as a cynical adult probably a little less than a child would but I am working on my emotional side…

The garden of the title is almost ethereal, that it is easily imagined boundary wise but has the feeling of an infinitely explorable place where eternity could be spent always with new adventures to be sought and found.  Perhaps a lot of children these days find the idea of exploring nature somewhat alien but enticing in its feeling of independence.  Flights of fancy and nature are the perfect partners for a fertile mind seeking inspiration.

The characters are all rounded enough although it is the feeling of the book, its rich atmosphere which is by far and away the real winner here.  Although special mention must be made of my favourite character Uncle Alan and his annoyance at such randomly philosophical questions which Tom pours at him and his inability to think outside the rules that life drills into us…it’s an important point that perhaps we could all dwell on sometime.

Overall TMG has that feel of a classic bit of children’s literature with the aspects that make an enchanting read, it rightfully takes its place in the pantheon of timeless books that cross age boundaries and generally help the adult population see that a lot of what we do is a waste of good time that could be used sinking into this book and regressing to the days when life was arguably richer and more mysterious.

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37 Comments

Posted by on 23/04/2014 in Children's Literature

 

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37 responses to “Tom’s Midnight Garden – Philippa Pearce

  1. Letizia

    23/04/2014 at 18:16

    You’re right, the cover is wonderful. It’s funny how you only realized you had seen the television version after you had finished the book. I do that sometimes too. Sometimes rereading half a book even and then realizing, oh, wait, I’ve read this before years ago!

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    • Ste J

      23/04/2014 at 18:18

      Always a pleasant surprise if you don’t remember where a book ends up. It does conjure memories of a specific time as well which makes me happy. I remember having a bad hair do and being short. Fond memories I’m sure you’ll agree…

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  2. Al

    23/04/2014 at 21:15

    I think I saw this in the 80’s when I was coming home from school, or work or something like that. I knew it looked familiar as soon as I read the title and saw the cover. I may have done it at school – along with Kes, Joby, Across The Barricades, Of Mice And Men, Cider With Rosie and other non Shakespeare [happy possible birthday, bard] related books.

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    • Ste J

      24/04/2014 at 18:37

      I’ve not read any of those books yet, although I am looking forward to Cider With Rosie which I regret not reading last year. I may have to do a post bemoaning the lack of sinister TV for kids these days…any excuse for a rant.

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      • Al

        24/04/2014 at 19:39

        Haha. I saw another book by Laurie Lee yesterday when I looked on the book table at the Co-op. Although I think a couple of the books shouldn’t be there. I think they are too mature for some of the customers to see. Also I don’t think Jilly Cooper books should be on there either. Unfortunately, parents have freaked and worried too much that their kids were getting scared of the programs and giving them nightmares. What happened to Goosebumps and programs like that? Pinky and Perky with their freakish looking coconuts. It’s all too much of “our kids are getting scared” My daughter reads scary books for fun

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        • Ste J

          24/04/2014 at 20:25

          There are some really adult books that they seem to lump in with the kids books willy-nilly, I’m sure some kids have piked them up and been well….interested! The Moomins (the original one not the cartoon) were as scary as anything, I think it does good for kids to be scared, it is exhilarating…I mean Doctor Who did us no harm or Goosebumps…it’s not like we subject them to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we even sanitise fairy tales to Disney fluff. Scary is good at any age.

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          • Al

            24/04/2014 at 20:47

            I tried to get my daughter to read James Herbert’s The Dark but she won’t. I think it may have something to do with the fact that I told her when I was a teen and read it, I had to sleep with the light on for a couple of weeks 🙂

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            • Ste J

              27/04/2014 at 19:14

              I would have thought that would be an encouragement lol.

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              • Al

                27/04/2014 at 20:05

                Not when she is already afeared of the non-light

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  3. gargoylebruce

    23/04/2014 at 21:50

    Great book this. It’s on my “special” shelf.

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    • Ste J

      24/04/2014 at 18:16

      Betwixt which titles asks my curious mind, through the medium of my mouth.

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      • gargoylebruce

        24/04/2014 at 23:49

        Whispers in the Graveyard by Therese Breslin and The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow by Andy Griffiths. Clearly I have a broad definition of the word special.

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        • Ste J

          27/04/2014 at 19:14

          Indeed , I don’t think I can match that…

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  4. Lyn

    23/04/2014 at 22:10

    You’re right Ste J, the cover does scream “read me.” I guess I’ll have to now. Your comment about realising you’d seen it on TV after you read it had me nodding in agreement. Only my experience was seeing just one scene in a movie and I knew I’d seen it before; yet for the life of me, I could not remember anything else about the movie – weird.

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    • Ste J

      24/04/2014 at 18:30

      The mind is a strange and wonderful device for storing up fascinating and random information. I am glad you feel you have to read TMG as that makes me happy…it’s been in print since 1958 so it must be decent!

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  5. renxkyoko

    23/04/2014 at 22:23

    This sounds good. Kind of reminds me of Polar Express.

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    • Ste J

      24/04/2014 at 18:18

      That is something I need to acquaint myself with…I narrowly avoided it by accident last year.

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  6. Elizabeth Melton Parsons

    24/04/2014 at 01:50

    How’s it going–working on your emotional side? 😀 You did a fantastic job on this review. Made me want to read it and I’m one of those cynical adults.

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    • Ste J

      24/04/2014 at 18:22

      It’s always a challenge attempting to pry emotion out of myself but I think I may be softening, hehe. There are a few books that just have that feeling of wonderfulness…perhaps it is different for each person but this one certainly moved me and is always worth the excuse of raiding the local bookstore.

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  7. Sheila

    24/04/2014 at 03:59

    I love the sound of this, especially because of the way you’ve described his sense of wonder while finding adventure in a garden. It’s so true that any place can inspire such wonder as long as we take the time to look at it in the right way. I’ll have to make sure to read this one.

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    • Ste J

      24/04/2014 at 18:36

      Any place like any subject can and is a source of wonder as long as it is written or spoken about in the right way and some books just manage to do that, I equate the garden to Never Never Land or Narnia for the feel of infinite scope even if there are boundaries to this one, it seems not to be important. It seems you will be joining a queue of many to pick up the book if the other comments are anything to go by.

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  8. RoSy

    24/04/2014 at 04:24

    The cover is indeed inviting! And – hmm…tempting to make me want to buy it & read it…

    In book news: The Easter bunny went to the bookstore & picked up a few good reads for the kids. One has already finished her book (Where the Sidewalk Ends). 🙂

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    • Ste J

      24/04/2014 at 18:28

      I would encourage you with pokes if it was physically possible but for now I can only badger you with words. The Easter Bunny has good taste in books, I just checked out Where the \sidewalk Ends and wouldn’t mind obtaining a copy myself!

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  9. thejerseygal®™

    02/05/2014 at 06:32

    Always looking for good books for my kids. Trying to find reviews isn’t easy. My 6 year old needs something fantastically mind-blowing, as she has quite the imagination!

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    • Ste J

      06/05/2014 at 19:23

      Blog reviews seem to be the best way to go for reviews on anything these days…so many great kids books out there, although I do find it difficult to judge for age groups…I haven’t read many new ones but I will add some more kids book reviews to the stupidly big pile of ideas I have going on.

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      • thejerseygal®™

        06/05/2014 at 19:41

        Maybe regiment out your week. Monday is for fiction. Tuesday for biographies… Etc…? Just a thought.

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        • Ste J

          13/05/2014 at 19:15

          Wise words, I just rebel against even my own simple rules lol.

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  10. cricketmuse

    14/05/2014 at 19:27

    Thanks for reminding me of this great title!

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    • Ste J

      14/05/2014 at 19:52

      The only thing better than rediscovery is to read such books for the first time…

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      • cricketmuse

        14/05/2014 at 19:53

        Very true, even better enjoyed out of the usual time element😊

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  11. writersideup

    14/08/2016 at 20:48

    Oh, I love this review, Ste J 🙂 I thoroughly enjoyed this book (most KidLit I’ve read as an adult) and you’ve made me want to read it again. Someday 🙂

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    • Ste J

      15/08/2016 at 12:55

      This was one of those reviews that took me hardly any time such was the nature of my enthusiasm and words falling into place which is always pleasant. I need to read a few more children’s books, it’s one thing of a few that this blog needs to focus on more.

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  12. writersideup

    16/08/2016 at 03:37

    Well, there are certainly some excellent ones. I HAVE to suggest at least one. A brilliant, short read is A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. It won the Newbery and it’s one of my favorites 🙂

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    • Ste J

      16/08/2016 at 13:26

      Thanks for the tip, I will check it out!

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  13. Resa

    21/03/2017 at 21:35

    Reblogged this on Graffiti Lux and Murals and commented:
    Ste J reviews this book from Puffin Press, and I’m impressed. It sounds like a wonderful tale. Hey, did you know Ste j has 27 reviews in the “Children’s Literature” category on his blog? Book to the Future is a must follow!

    Like

     
  14. Purpleanais

    22/03/2017 at 14:29

    It is a wonderful book and I love this particular cover too

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    • Ste J

      29/03/2017 at 16:47

      Modern covers are usually a lot less impressive but this one has been done by someone who appreciated the story, I suspect. Children’s books are great, we should all read more of them!

      Like

       

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