Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian - book cover

A Week of Impactful Books, #5

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)

Watchers by Deann Koontz - book cover

A Week of Impactful Books, #4

Book 4: Another Dean Koontz. This one is called Watchers. It was turned into more than one movie; they’re all terrible. (Which is really too bad, because the book has so much potential to be a truly amazing on screen experience!)

Watchers involves 2 extremely intelligent creatures bred in a laboratory. A wonderful, loving golden retriever, who is later named Einstein. And a creature which has an all encompassing hatred for everything — especially The Dog.

As the book moves along, you learn why The Dog and The Outsider exist. And it is amazing and horrible what the scientists achieved. As much as you do do not want something like The Outsider to be real, you equally want to find a dog like Einstein. A dog with intelligence that rivals your own.

The Outsider is the primary antagonist for the book, and it is the terrifying thing you most want to avoid; and it comes after you in the dark places where it cannot be seen.

Yet despite the trail of destruction The Outsider leaves behind, and as much as it wants to REALLY HURT The Dog, Koontz still finds a way to make you feel some sympathy for it.

Like yesterday’s book, Lightning, Watchers is a book I can read, and reread, and reread, and it continues to be fresh and engaging. Koontz really makes you think when you read this. The idea of having a dog like Einstein probably lines up with dreams many of us have had about our pets. What would it be like if we could have a pet who REALLY understood us and could communicate that to us in a way we in turn understood? No doubts about anyone’s meaning. And, yet . . . what horrors could be wrought if science had the skills to do this?

An excellent, fast moving plot. And a story you won’t stop thinking about.

Lightning by Dean Koontz - book cover

A Week of Impactful Books, #3

My third book is Lightning by Dean Koontz. The basic plot for this book is summarized as, “A storm struck on the night Laura Shane was born, and there was a strangeness about the weather that people would remember for years. Even more mysterious was the blond-haired stranger who appeared out of nowhere again and again to save Laura from tragedy.”

I first read this book in 7th grade. I remember that in English class, we were supposed to bring in a word we didn’t know each week, from whatever we were reading. The books which were considered age appropriate (Babysitter’s Club and the like)? Knew all of those words. And, I really wanted something with more intense plot. (Although I liked the BSC books, even as a 7th grader, I found it super annoying that they *never* leave 8th grade — hundred some books later? Still 8th graders!)

I needed books which were considered more challenging to my age group, although, admittedly, this was not more challenging *to me*.

I knew all of the English words in this book too. So I brought in the German ones (which I either knew the meaning of, or could figure out with context clues). Then I got in trouble. Such is the life of the advanced reader?

Anyhow, Lightning is extremely engaging. Riveting. It involves time travel, but the time travelers are from the past. They can’t change their past, but they change their future.

And the time travelers? They’re from Nazi Germany — trying to change the outcome of the war.

But what happens when one of them isn’t so sure it’s the right path, and then finds a reason in his future — a future he can still change – to stop Hitler’s plans? I can’t say too much without giving it all away.

It really makes you think — what WOULD happen if people from the past were still living out their lives concurrently with the timeline we’re in now, and changing things . . and we wouldn’t even know a change had happened.

I have lost count of the number of times I have read this book, but each time it is just as engaging as the first. The time travel reads so logically that you really want to believe it is a possibility. A frightening one, to say the least, but a real one. And the characters are well-rounded; full of depth, emotion, feeling — you can truly sympathize with what they’re going through, even if you haven’t had all of the same experiences. You’ll finish the book feeling like you really know them.

Have any of my followers read Lightning? What did you think?

Clan of the Cave Bear book cover

A Week of Impactful Books, #2

For my second book that made an impact on me, I’m sharing Jean M. Auel’s “The Clan of the Cave Bear”. This is another book that my Mom read in sections, and then told me about (so even though I didn’t physically read it when it came out — it feels like I did!).

“It is the first book in the Earth’s Children book series which speculates on the possibilities of interactions between Neanderthal and modern Cro-Magnon humans.”

The following books, in order: The Valley of Horses, The Mammoth Hunters, The Plains of Passage, The Shelters of Stone, and The Land of the Painted Caves.

CotCB may not be as historically accurate about the neanderthals now as it was considered then (expected as research teaches us more and more about the past), but it is still a very interesting and engaging look at how two very different versions of humans started to come together.

For me, this first book in the series is the most engaging, followed by The Valley of the Horses. The final book in this series — I’ve only made it through once. Sadly, it’s really lacking a lot of the intensity that the first two books had.

If you can ignore the fact that some of the research Auel did for this book is outdated (the book came out in 1986, after all!), I think you will find this book to be a good read. It is one of the reasons I became so interested in history. The way history was taught in K-12 years really dulled my interest in it in the classroom, but with these books? The more to learn, the better!

In college, I would finally find a professor who could, and did, teach history in a way that was just as engaging as CotCB (and my first book, Pillars of the Earth). That would lead me to earn a third of my BALS in History.

I still have my first copy of this book, but it is getting very fragile — even though I take very good care of my books. 

Pillars of the Earth - early cover version

A Week of Impactful Books, #1

I was nominated by my Aunt Jody to post 7 books, one per day (without skipping) that I love and that have made an impression on me.  This is a Facebook challenge, but I decided to share my posts on my blog as well.
#1 Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Pillars of the Earth - early cover version

Pillars of the Earth – early cover version

My Mom first told me about this book when I was growing up. She’d read some, and then tell us what happened. When I went to Europe in 1994 on a school trip, the tour guide mentioned Pillars of the Earth. I decided I had to read it when I got home. Having just seen so much of Western Europe brought the book even more to life than was already done by Follett’s masterful storytelling.
It’s a historical fiction novel about the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England. The greatest Gothic Cathedral ever known. You have the main characters cast of fictional people, and then you’ll come across real people along the way — such as Thomas Becket (aka Saint Thomas of Canterbury).
“It is set in the middle of the 12th century, primarily during the Anarchy, between the time of the sinking of the White Ship and the murder of Thomas Becket. The book traces the development of Gothic architecture out of the preceding Romanesque architecture, and the fortunes of the Kingsbridge priory and village against the backdrop of historical events of the time.”
There’s a lot going on between royalty and the church; a lot of the end justifies the means — even if the end is personal, not for the church/not for the people.
Though not religious, I enjoyed reading about how they made stunningly beautiful, and large, churches, without the technology and machinery we have today.
(It is also a miniseries, which was pretty good, despite the changes they made. Many of the cast were unknowns or relatively unknown at the time, making it easier to see them as their character.)
I wrote to Ken Follett years ago about how much I enjoyed the book, and asked if there was a movie version of it. That I could swear that I’d actually heard the song in it somewhere, and seen it — he replied and said I wasn’t the first. But no, at that time, there was just the book. That should tell you something about how much you are drawn into this book, and how well you can really see what is happening!
It is a fantastic and interesting read. It really brings the past to life. The characters are personable, relatable. I’ve gone through about 5 copies of the book, before finally giving up and getting it on my Kindle app (but I still have 1 physical copy)!
If you do this on your own blog, please let me know the link in comments so I can come read about your 7 books!