Usually, nothing good can come of a family heirloom grandfather clock striking thirteen; Tom Long, though, finds that there is a whole new world that opens up for him when he hears the thirteenth chime. Philippa Pearce's classic children's fantasy novel, published in 1958, tells the story of Tom, a contemporaneous young boy living with his aunt and uncle in a converted Victorian country house whilst his brother gets over the measles. Each night at the thirteenth strike of the clock, Tom is able to slip back in time to the Victorian era where he meets a young girl about his age; with whom he makes friends.
Philippa Pearce, one of England's most respected children's authors, returned many times to the themes of ghosts, and wrinkles in time, in her writing. She based the Midnight Garden itself on Mill House, in Great Shelford, England, where she herself grew up, attending the prestigious Perse School for Girls in nearby Cambridge, and becoming, as an adult and a published author, a sort of unconventional literary mascot for subsequent generations of imaginative little girls at the school. Cambridge itself becomes Castleford in the book. Tom's Midnight Garden was her second novel; the first, Minnow on the Say, was written whilst she was in bed, recovering from tuberculosis, and reminiscing about a kayak trip she had taken several years before. On paper, the River Cam, which runs through Campbridge, became the River Say, later being published in America as The Minnow Leads to Treasure. Pearce received her first Carnegie Medal nomination for the novel.
Pearce was awarded the Carnegie Medal in 1958, which is given to the best new children's book each year. In 2007, the seventieth anniversary of the book, it was nominated as one of the ten best children's Carnegie Medal winning books ever. The public voted, and it finished second, behind Philip Pullman's Northern Lights. For his part, Pullman observed that although the winning initials were correct, the recipient of the award was not, because he did not believe that his novel would stand the test of time in the same way that Tom's Midnight Garden had.
Tom's Midnight Garden has been adapted for television by the BBC three times, and in 1999 became a big screen movie.