Tom's Midnight Garden

by Philippa Pearce

Paperback, 1992



Local notes

PB Pea




Greenwillow Books (1992), Edition: Reissue, 240 pages


Fantasy. Juvenile Fiction. HTML: When his brother catches measles, Tom is sent away for the summer to stay with his uncle and aunt - and is thoroughly fed up about it. What a boring summer it�??s going to be. But then, lying in bed one night, he hears the old grandfather clock in the hall strike the very strange hour of thirteen o�??clock. What can it mean? As Tom creeps downstairs and opens the door, he finds out�?�a magical garden, a new playmate and the adventure of a lifetime. Una Stubbs stars as Aunt Gwen in this BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisat


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

240 p.; 5.13 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member PhilSyphe
My first encounter with “Tom's Midnight Garden” occurred in 1989. I arrived home from school, switched on the TV, and became absorbed by a BBC adaptation of “TMG”. This was perhaps the second episode and I ensured that I saw the rest of the series. I also kept an eye out for a repeat
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broadcast, which transpired either later that same year or maybe in 1990. Whenever it was, I watched every episode and enjoyed them as much as, if not more than, when first seeing them.

A few years ago I saw advertised a 1999 film adaptation of “Tom's Midnight Garden”. Even though I was in my thirties by then, my fondness for that 1989 series meant I had to see this version, which I enjoyed too.

With all this in mind, I’ve often wondered if the book would be appealing or whether it’d be too childish for a “grown-up man” to get into. Having read a few reviews first, noting that many adults have read the book *as* adults, not as children, I felt I’d give it a go.

Verdict? Brilliant!

I realise now how faithful the film and especially the TV series are to the novel. Although it’s written for children it that doesn’t mean grown-ups can’t appreciate the charm, intelligence, and imagination that make this a wonderful piece of escapism.

The characters are all well-drawn, particularly the main two. Tom comes across as a little selfish at times, but bearing in mind he’s a young lad, this doesn’t make him unlikeable in any respect.

Hatty is my favourite. She’s endearing in every way and, had I been a young boy drawn back through time into a garden were only a couple of people could see me (if only!), I can’t think of a better playmate than Hatty. In fact, I don’t think the story would’ve been as strong as it is if Tom had instead befriended another boy, so it’s a good move by the author to choose the lonely orphan girl for Tom’s friend.

Something about this entire story – the concept, the time-travel, the two main characters – that makes it more than just a children’s story. Just as the 1989 TV series has stuck with me all these years, no doubt the book will do so too.

Some people talk about their “inner-child”/”child within” and I think “Tom's Midnight Garden” evokes just that. It’s a warm albeit slightly sad feeling. The last few paragraphs are beautifully touching.

This novel is both a classic and – no pun intended – timeless.
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LibraryThing member boeflak
No book left such an impression on me in childhood, and I was a reading addict. I pored over Verne, Conan-Doyle, Heinlein, Clark, Carroll, Barrie, Pease, Norton, Kierkegaard, all of the Action Comics heroes and more.

Yet this simple, elegant tale of first love, the dawning of adolescence and the
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passage of time moves me as much today as it did 45 years ago.

I've never understood why it is so little known, since it seems to cast its spell over everyone who has read it at my recommendation.
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LibraryThing member booker11
This is an absolute classic! Read it as a child and re-read as an adult. Tom goes to live with relatives in the countryside to avoid catching measles from his sibling. His boredom in his new surroundings is short-lived when the grandfather clock strikes 13!!! He goes off exploring to find that the
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old house has a secret garden. Tom meets playmates, and forms a strong bond with Hatty. But strange things happen with time; Hatty ages quickly whilst Tom fades. But which of them is the ghost? Brilliant book.
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LibraryThing member marnanel
This is a classic of kidlit, something everyone should have read. Tom is staying with relatives in a large old house that has been divided into flats. It's dull and he's bored until time slips and he finds himself in the same house many years earlier. There he befriends an equally miserable child
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named Hattie, and through the relationship they learn from one another. The story has much to say about time and temporal paradox, but far more about the perceptions and connotations of human aging.
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LibraryThing member ClicksClan
After taking so long to get through Swallows and Amazons this was a really nice quick read.

Had read it before as a child but could only vaguely remember what happened in it so it was almost like reading a new book except I sometimes knew what was coming.

Was interesting to study it and see how it
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was adapted for the stage. Actually found quite a bit to say about it for my essay.

Really enjoyed reading it, think it would make a good story to read to a class or as a bedtime story because of the way the chapters are laid out and the length of them.

Must read more of Philippa Pearce's books.
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LibraryThing member JohnGrant1

I know I read this years/decades ago; all I could remember of it when I picked it up more recently was the story's premise. Having now reread the book, I can understand why: the tale's all right as tales go, but the setup's great.

It's the summer vacation. Because his brother and bosom buddy Peter
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has measles, Tom's sent off to the city to spend a few weeks living in a flat with his dull Uncle Alan and his gushing Aunt Gwen. At first he's bored rigid; but then one night the clock downstairs chimes 13 and he sneaks out of bed to discover that the house's back door, which normally opens onto a cluttered yard with dustbins, instead opens onto a large Victorian garden. There he meets and becomes devoted to Hatty, a little girl about his own age who's the only person (so it seems) who can see him; she's an orphan who's been brought here to be raised with her snotty rich cousins, a move resisted by her ghastly aunt. (It turns out that one other person can see him, the Bible-thumping gardener Abel. At first Abel assumes Tom's a demon, and tries to drive him off. Later he becomes more friendly.)

With each fresh nightly visit of Tom to the garden, Hatty ages by months or even years; it becomes apparent to us that Tom, although real to himself, is in effect Hatty's imaginary friend; and, sure enough, as Hatty progresses from child to young woman, she becomes less and less able to see him . . . But she never forgets him, as he and we find out in the final stages of the book, when it emerges that the crabby old woman who owns the house in which Tom's aunt and uncle live is none other than Hatty.

The two old friends have a grand reunion, during which the splendid other half of the time-traveling mechanism is spelt out. Complementing the Tom-is-Hatty's-imaginary-friend part of the setup is that each night, in her bedroom above Tom's, Hatty has been dreaming of her childhood; so Tom has been visiting not a garden that's out the house's back door but Hatty's dreams. Thus the reason Hatty had Tom as an imaginary friend in her childhood, and can recall him as such, is that she's meeting him in her current dreams, which is also why Tom knows all about Hatty's childhood. So, as far as the story's concerned, two types of vision -- two types of imagination, if you like -- combine to create real-life events.

It's a wonderful feat of fantasy conception, and Pearce pulls it off really well, with plenty of sense-of-wonder. As noted, the adventures Tom and Hatty have together in the world of the garden are, while entertaining and readable, far less memorable. But that doesn't matter in the context of this book's other strengths.
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LibraryThing member thebookmagpie
This story is magical and lovely and written in that style of English children's stories that I absolutely love (think The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, and probably a few others I can't think of right now. It might come across as a slightly naive view of childhood, but I actually think it's
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pretty accurate. I kind of wish it was a little more fleshed out (a la Secret Garden, which is one of my favourite books ever and I haven't read it in far to long) but that's a minor quibble. Fantastic. The language is rich and evocative and beautiful. Plus, my edition had some lovely illustrations. Cannot recommend enough. Some children may find it a little difficult, as the language is somewhat old-fashioned (only a little) and in some places quite difficult, but I think most would find this a wonderful reading experience!
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LibraryThing member debnance
Tom’s brother has come down with measles and Tom is sent to stay with his aunt and uncle for the duration of his brother’s sickness. Tom is not happy about having to stay cooped up in a small apartment. And then everything changes. A clock strikes thirteen and Tom makes his way out a door and
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into a magical garden where he makes a new friend and has a thousand exciting adventures.

I’m not a fan of ghost stories and I like my magical stories to include super powers, but despite the ghosts in the book and the lack of special abilities in this story, I loved this book. I became a child when Tom entered the garden and I went with Tom as he wandered through time.
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LibraryThing member homeschoolmimzi
Loved this book. A beautifully written time travel story. My 12 yr old loved it too. Thanks for the recommendation Suzy!
LibraryThing member riverwillow
I first came to this story through the BBC televison series of the same name. Tom's brother, Peter, has measles and Tom is sent to stay with his childless aunt and uncle who live in a flat. One night the old grandfather clock strikes thirteen and Tom discovers a magical night garden and a young
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girl called Hatty, who becomes his friend. This is a magical story about the power of friendship and dreams.
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LibraryThing member john257hopper
This is a great post-war children's classic about time travel (nominated as one of the best 100 books, films and TV programmes about time travel in a recent a magazine I saw); and also about loss and yearning for a particular place. It starts very well and ends a little sadly, but very nicely tying
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together the present and the past. I did think it sagged just a little in the middle, but it contains a lot of magic and I would recommend it to readers of any age who like light fantasy.
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LibraryThing member LibraryLou
This is another brilliant children's book about a boy, Tom, who goes to stay in an old house, where he discovers he can go back in time via the old clock in the hall.
LibraryThing member Inky_Fingers
I found the book a little slow, but it had good solid characters and a nicely spooky garden. I read more than half but never ended up finishing. I think that when it changed from a fantasy novel to a time travel novel, it lost my attention.
LibraryThing member readinmonie
Tom thinks he is going to have a boring stay at his Uncle and Aunts place but he soon thinks differently. When the clock strikes 13 he opens the door to see the time and he finds a beautiful garden that is an alley way during the day. Join Tom and Hatty in there adventures in the garden.
LibraryThing member francescadefreitas
I took against this book as a child, and refused to read it, no matter how much people told me I'd like it.
I enjoyed it now, but I am not sure I would have enjoyed it then. Not much happens in the story, but the bitter sweet sense of time slipping away each time Tom goes to the garden and Hatty
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grows a little bit older is delightful. It may be appealing to my sense of nostalgia, i think I would have demanded more action or mystery when I was little.
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LibraryThing member t1bclasslibrary
This book grew on me the more I read it- Tom time travels to a more and more developed and intricate past, that the reader understands as Tom himself begins to. The final strands are pulled together at the very end. The end isn't surprising, except that it seems a bit out of line timewise going
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from the present day (the book was written in 1958, so it's not out of line for that time.
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LibraryThing member soniaandree
Tom is forced to stay at some relatives' house because his brother is ill. There, he will wander at night and discover a magical garden, where he will meet Hatty, a young girl with whom he'll meet regularly. Time is out of joint in this magical world, because Hatty grows up fast, while Tom's
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timeline is normal - each encounter brings her closer to womanhood, and Tom feels more and more left out, until the two worlds separate.
He will find Hatty again, of course, and their encounter is most touching. The plot is not very 'magical' in a sense, but their different timelines make the narrative very interesting, until its final conclusion. This book is a classic of children's fiction, and I'd say it is a good book - it is like a bit of C.S. Lewis, but without the wardrobe!
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LibraryThing member PollyMoore3
While the time travel fantasy convinces, Tom's 1958 life is slightly marred by the awkward plot line: in the normal course of things in those days Tom would have been left to catch his brother's measles, not shipped off to his aunt and uncle, unable to give them convincing reasons for lengthening
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his stay. And in the past, if Hatty's aunt dislikes her so much, she would hardly give her a home and risk one of her sons marrying her (in fact she marries one of their friends). The sharing of one pair of ice skates between Tom and Hatty also had me mystified.
But although these things niggled me a bit, it's still a charming story with a poignant ending.
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LibraryThing member nkmunn
Evokes the past, and childhood, and the notion of generations in a thought provoking and sensitive way but what really remains for me are the feelings and the imagery of this magical yet quiet book that tells an age old story of boy meets girl and the old and the young.
LibraryThing member Bduke
I liked this book because it reminded me so much of one of my all-time favorite books I read as a child - Magic Elizabeth. An old house, a crotchety old woman, a child not wanting to be there, and something mystical happening. But I didn't find it half as magical as Magic Elizabeth. Maybe that's
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because I read it as an adult instead of as a child. This book won the Carnegie Medal, and I did enjoy it, I just felt like it was lacking that extra something special.
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LibraryThing member AnnaLund2011
This book was my first encounter with time travel. It is still one of my favorite books of all time. I wish I could write like this.
LibraryThing member gogglemiss
Captivating, engaging, magical and a lump in my throat at the ending.
No wonder, it's a classic.
LibraryThing member rakerman
Not actually a childrens' book at all. A meditation on youth, aging, and change.
LibraryThing member Salsabrarian
Dramatization of book. When Tom's brother comes down with the measles, Tom is sent to live with his aunt and uncle for the summer. It could be a boring summer in their flat but one night Tom hears the clock in the hall chime 13 o'clock. What does it mean? Tom gets up to explore and when he steps
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outside, finds an incredible garden in the back that doesn't exist during the day. Each night, when the clock chimes 13, Tom goes to the garden and plays with Hatty, a young girl who seems to grow significantly older each time he visits. When it is time for Tom to return to his family, he discovers the magic secret of the time changes in the garden and how they are connected to the old woman who lives in the upstairs flat.
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LibraryThing member LaviniaRossetti
Tom was going to spend the holidays with his brother Peter, and they had planned everything about it. But could anything be worse than Peter catching the measles? And to add on to troubles, Tom had not had them yet, and his parents were worried that he would catch them, so he was sent away for as
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long as they thought was good for him at his uncle and aunt's.

When he gets into the flat, the first thing he sees is Mrs Bartholomew's grandfather clock. It strikes at the wrong hour, perhaps donging three times when it is four, and seven times when it is nine; but its hands are always pointing at the correct time. Anyhow that it strikes, though, it has not yet struck thirteen.

Thirteen..thirteen. No clock, whether it is broken like Mrs Bartholomew's or not, has ever struck thirteen. To find out, Tom explores downstairs, and finds a large, beautiful garden. But in the day time, the garden is not there. So every night, on the thirteenth strike of the clock, Tom quietly goes downstairs, and finds the garden. And every time, peculiar things happen...
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(438 ratings; 4.1)
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