Plot summary: When his brother Peter gets a nasty case of the measles, Tom is sent to stay with his aunt and uncle in their boring flat to avoid getting sick. Tom isn’t really allowed to go outside because he might already be infected with the measles, and there is nothing inside to keep him entertained. Restless and lonely, Tom isn’t sure what to expect when, while lying awake one night, he hears the old grandfather clock in the building strike thirteen. When Tom goes downstairs to investigate, he ventures out of the back door of the house and discovers a beautiful, blooming garden instead of a boring backyard full of garbage cans. Tom returns to the garden each night and discovers that not only is he going to a different place, he’s also travelling back in time. He meets a young girl named Hatty, who appears to be the only person who can interact with him as he explores the garden. Tom begins to notice something strange about Hatty, however. Each time he comes back to the garden, she seems to have aged years even though only a night has past. What exactly is going on in Tom’s midnight garden?Review: This charming and clever story has remained a classic piece of literature for young readers for over fifty years since it was first published. Although tweens of today will definitely note that Tom’s world is now far in the past, the idea of his travelling back in time to the 19th century and meeting young Hatty will still delight the reader. One of the most enjoyable parts of Tom’s Midnight Garden is that it has no sinister undertones or antagonists that plague the main characters. Instead, the driving force behind the plot is to uncover exactly how Tom is able to travel back in time to play with Hatty in the beautiful garden each night. The satisfying and touching ending of the novel leaves the reader with a warm feeling in their heart. Overall, a very charming book that tweens will continue enjoy for another fifty years.
Reading level: Grades 4-7
Similar titles: The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston.
Personal thoughts: This was my absolute favorite book as a tween, and I have read it several times over the years. Each time I am struck by how sweet but entertaining the story is. There is nothing salacious or scary about the plot, but it is thoroughly entertaining. I love how Philippa Pearce stirs up the imagination of the reader with the secret of the midnight garden. I have and will continue to recommend this wonderful book to young readers.
Themes: Time-travel, mystery, friendship.
Awards/Reviews: Carnegie Medal winner 1958
Series Information: N/A
Tom – Tween boy who is sent to stay with his aunt and uncle after his brother, Peter, comes down with the measles. Tom is initially bored to tears at the flat, but soon discovers a magical garden at night where he befriends a young girl named Hatty.
Hatty – Young girl who Tom meets in the mysterious midnight garden. She ages rapidly as Tom visits and revisits the garden.
Annotation: Tom is bored to death when he is forced to stay with his aunt and uncle after his brother comes down with the measles. What he doesn’t know is that adventure awaits him once he discovers a mysterious garden that only appears during the night.