Good Night, Mr. Tom

Good Night, Mr. Tom Study Guide

Good Night, Mr. Tom is a children's book published in 1981, written by English actress, dancer, and writer Michelle Magorian. Magorian had a strong passion for the history of children's literature which inspired her to try her hand at writing. Originally, she penned Good Night, Mr. Tom as a short story but eventually began developing it into her first book. It took her four years in total to research and write the final draft of the novel, often working on the manuscript in trains and theater dressing rooms.

Good Night, Mr. Tom tells the tale of a young evacuee from London named William Beech who finds himself in a northern English village, living with a gruff widower named 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 room for a child must help out.

The book is set during the 1939-1940 period in England, just as war with Germany had been declared by then-Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, who was quickly replaced by Winston Churchill. As the Germans seemed to be intent on bombing London and invading from the south, children from inner London were sent 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 immeasurably changed in ways they could never have imagined.

While on one level the book is about the evacuees of wartime Britain, its deeper story covers themes of loss, relationships, and child abuse, with the unlikely relationship between Tom and Willie as the centerpiece. Magorian has created a beautiful story about how a traumatized boy and a lonely old man can allow each other to return to love and human contact. Though many losses and tragedies unfold throughout the novel, its ultimate message is one of faith in the goodness of life.

Good Night, Mr. Tom was awarded the Guardian Children's Fiction Award in 1981. It was also awarded the 1982 International Reading Award, which is given to the best first or second book by an author who shows exceptional promise in the field of children's literature. Since its publication, the book has been adapted for both the stage and screen, including the 1998 film directed by Jack Gold, which won Best Drama in the 1999 National Television Awards. Good Night, Mr. Tom has been translated into 11 different languages. Because of its serious subject matter, this book is particularly recommended for children of ages 9-16.