Book 5: Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian.
In junior high, I read Good Night, Mr. Tom. I can’t remember if everyone read it for Mrs. Clemmons, or if it was one of the many wonderful books which Mrs. Price had in her book carousel. Anyone could read anything from it if you were done with your work, or if you wanted to take one home. That is how I was introduced to Piers Anthony.
This is an engaging, heart-wrenching and heart-warming story about a young boy (Willie Beech) who has grown up with an abusive mother. It takes place in London, and the English countryside, at the start of WWII. Despite his mother’s lack of care, he is sent with the other children to the countryside to escape the bombings.
Mr. Tom, for reasons of his own, which you gradually discover, has no real idea how to take care of a child, especially one who is hurting as much as Willie Beech is. But he puts in monumental effort, and really comes to love Willie.
Then, one day, Willie’s mother sends for him, and Mr. Tom is forced to send Willie back to London . . . and no one hears from him again. Mr. Tom takes matters into his own hands, and sets off to London to look for Willie.
There is much heartbreak in this story, but there is much love and joy as well. Not just the heartbreak Willie finds at home, and the joy he discovers with Mr. Tom, but heartbreak that comes with growing up during wartime, the joy of new friendships, and of new experiences.
It has been well over 20 years since I read this book, and I have never forgotten it.
Although I read it in junior high, don’t pass it off as a young adult, or kids/teens book, and not read it. Read it. Become immersed in it. Learn the struggles that others may be going through, even if they can’t tell you, or if they’re hiding a lot of love to give behind gruffness because of sorrow in their past.
It is a wonderful story. I read it often.
Per Amazon, Good Night, Mr. Tom:
Winner, 1982 International Reading Association Children’s Book Award
Notable Children’s Books of 1982 (ALA)
1982 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA)
1983 Fanfare Honor List (The Horn Book)
1982 Young Adult Editors’ Choices (BL)
1983 Teachers’ Choices (NCTE)
Notable 1982 Children’s Trade Books in Social Studies (NCSS/CBC)
1988 Choices (Association of Booksellers for Children)
Children’s Books of 1982 (Library of Congress)