Good Night, Mr Tom is a children's book written in 1981 by English actress, dancer, and writer Michelle Magorian. She is a trained mime who worked with acclaimed mime artist Marcel Marceau. Magorian had a strong interest in and passion for the history of children's literature which inspired her to try her hand at writing herself. Originally, Good Night, Mr Tom was a short story but developed into her first book. It tells the story of a young evacuee from London called Willie Beech who finds himself in a tiny village in the north of England living with a gruff widower called Tom Oakley. Tom is not the type of person who would naturally step up and volunteer to take in a child, but the war office has mandated that anyone with a spare room for a child must take one in.
The book is set during the 1939-1940 period in England just as war with Germany is declared by the then-Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, who was quickly replaced by Winston Churchill. As the Germans seemed to be focusing on bombing London and invading from the south, children from inner London were evacuated up to the north of England for their own safety. The book goes into great detail about the preparations for war, and the impact it had on the everyday lives of ordinary people whose lives would be changed immeasurably in ways they could never have imagined.
While essentially a book about the evacuees in wartime Britain, this novel also deals with the subjects of child abuse and the terrible way in which orphaned children were treated, and the subject of the changing gender roles in society as women were called upon to take on the roles that were traditionally taken by men, now that men were called up to fight. However, it is also a beautiful story of how a young, terrified boy enables a lonely old man to open himself up to human contact and love again.
The book was awarded the IRA Children's Book Award for the best first or second book by an author showing exceptional promise in the field of children's literature. In particular, this book is recommended for children of ages 9-16.