Three Things I Learned from Tom’s Midnight Garden

Toms Midnight Garden Cover

After reading this magical novel, my only regret is that I was unaware of it when I was a child. Tom’s Midnight Garden is filled with imagination. The author has infused Tom Long with the curiosity, impatience, and determination of youth. Though respectful to his aunt and uncle, who have graciously taken him into their home while his brother recovers from the measles, Tom is adventurous and refuses to spend summer as a quiet guest.

Upon finishing the book, three things occurred to me.

There’s No Real Bad Guy

As most children will tell you when recalling their favorite fairy tales, there’s always a bad guy. And that’s because the hero never starts off as a hero. He must discover in himself powers he never knew he had—usually by defeating his enemy. But in this story, Tom revels in a newly found freedom and sense of wonder by spending time in the garden with Hatty.

The closest this book comes to a bad guy is Hatty’s aunt. Though severe, she isn’t all that bad. After all, she’s provided a home for the girl and, despite her conviction that her sons come first, she is not a monster.

Time Can Be an Enemy or a Friend

The annoying grandfather clock that cannot seem to tell time properly provides the means by which Tom travels into the past to meet Hatty. Mostly, Tom uses this bit of sorcery to his advantage, visiting and revisiting his friend in different seasons. He even figures out how to have Hatty hide a pair of ice skates for him to find in his own time so that he can go ice skating with her in the past. Sheer brilliance!

But Time can also be an enemy of sorts. Tom cannot control it, nor can he determine when the adventure will end. And when it does, the boy is devastated. He wasn’t even able to say goodbye properly. The grandfather clock no longer permits him to go back, and he is left with only memories of Hatty at different ages, from girl to young woman.

Dreams Can Create Powerful Connections

Toward the end, when Tom is with Hatty, and she is all grown up, his brother magically appears and can see her, too. It’s because Tom has been writing daily to Peter about his adventures. And Peter’s imagination seems to be as vivid as his brother’s, thus transporting him into Hatty’s world.

Tom’s Midnight Garden is a must-read for adults and children alike. Every page is filled with warmth, with each character—major and minor—lovingly drawn. It is a coming-of-age story, with Tom gaining an early appreciation for life through the eyes of a lonely girl growing into a confident young woman. And finally, it’s a story of friendship, forged in a garden as timeless as imagination itself.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

Winner of the Carnegie Medal

From beloved author Philippa Pearce, this sixtieth-anniversary edition is the perfect way to share this transcendent story of friendship with a new generation of readers. Philip Pullman, bestselling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, called Tom’s Midnight Garden “A perfect book.”

When Tom’s brother gets sick, he’s shipped off to spend what he’s sure will be a boring summer with his aunt and uncle in the country. But then Tom hears the old grandfather clock in the hall chime thirteen times, and he’s transported back to an old garden where he meets a young, lonely girl named Hatty.

Tom returns to the garden every night to have adventures with Hatty, who mysteriously grows a little older with each visit. As the summer comes to an end, Tom realizes he wants to stay in the garden with Hatty forever.

Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Tom’s Midnight Garden is a classic of children’s literature and a deeply satisfying time-travel mystery. This newly repackaged sixtieth-anniversary paperback is the perfect entrée for readers of all ages to the vivid world that The Guardian called “A modern classic.” Features new interior spot art by Jaime Zollars.

Where to Buy

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

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News Flash—‘Dark’ Is Not ‘Stranger Things’

Dark Poster
Photo courtesy of IMDb

Recently, I finished watching the new Netflix series, ‘Dark.’ Prior to its availability, though, I was reading headlines like these: Dark Review: Netflix’s German Answer To Stranger Things Is Appropriately Titled, And Far More Grim and Netflix’s Dark: Stranger Things meets The Killing in this supernatural Nordic noir, and to be honest, it kind of pissed me off. To be fair, the articles in question did a pretty good job of distinguishing between the two shows, but why compare them at all? Frankly, they have little to do with each other. Sure, both feature a forbidding forest and missing children. But where ‘Stranger Things’ is a mashup of ‘ET,’ ‘Stand By Me,’ and ‘Super-8,’ ‘Dark’ is a brooding meditation on Chernobyl, fate, and time travel.

So, what happens when you go with these kinds of attention-grabbing headlines? In my opinion, you create wrong expectations in the viewer’s mind. You know about expectations, right? Like when you sit down with your kids to watch the new Pixar movie, ‘Coco,’ at the local cinema and are greeted with a nearly thirty-minute short about some stupid buck-tooth snowman named Olaf. Yeah. Well, the press was bad. I think I heard there were riots in Mexico.

If by now you’re thinking of giving the show a try, let me offer a piece of advice. Switch the dialogue to German and add the English subtitles. I know, I know. Most people hate subtitles. But you will be in for a treat. Hearing the actors’ real voices as they navigate through this hell-on-earth is worth it and adds wonderfully to the tension. Trust me on this. Also, pay attention to the music. It’s spot-on.

I’ve found over the years that European storytelling is different from that of America. Europeans like to take their time letting things unfold. They’re more philosophical. They don’t shout, but rather speak in low, measured tones that convey an intensity that acts as a window into a person’s darkest secrets. And they like to minimalize the backstory, so you end up having to work hard to get to the bottom of a character rather than listening to some rube monologuing about what made them the way they are. Or worse, smarmy narration that attempts to put a bow on it all.

I will admit ‘Dark’ is not for everyone. But if you want to explore something different, give it a try. Why, you may even be tempted to get a taste of Nordic Noir a la ‘The Keeper of Lost Causes.’ And don’t get me wrong. I loved ‘Stranger Things’—well, the first season, anyway. All I’m saying is, ‘Dark’ truly stands on its own. It doesn’t need help from some other successful American series.