Tom’s Midnight Garden



Tom’s Midnight Garden

by Philippa Pearce

Age: 8+

Interests: gardens, history, time travel, England, friendship, magic, mystery, play

Oxford University Press: 1958

229 pages, 27 chapters

Also by this author: Mrs. Cockle’s Cat, Minnow on the Say, The Battle of Bubble and Squeak, The Way to Sattin Shore, The Shadow Cage and other tales of the Supernatural, The Little Gentleman

Next: The Secret Garden

Tom is sent to stay with Aunt Gwen and Uncle Alan while his little brother convalesces from the measles, and he is not pleased about it. Leaving his own wonderful back yard to spend the summer in a boring old apartment without a garden is a big disappointment. The only interesting thing in the whole building is the landlady’s old grandfather clock in the hall that always chimes the wrong hour. One midnight the clock chimes thirteen, which sends Tom tiptoeing downstairs to investigate. Out the back door he discovers a miraculous, wonderful garden, but when he opens the very same door the next morning he finds only a depressing back alley full of dustbins.

Tom’s secret night-time-only garden is a wonderful chance to explore and have fun every night when his aunt and uncle are in bed. After a while though, Tom starts to spot people in Victorian dress in the garden, but they can’t see him… all except for the youngest, a girl named Hatty. Tom and Hatty become fast friends and play blissfully together every night (or day – it’s usually daytime in the garden), though they are both bothered a bit by the suspicion that the other is a ghost. As well, Tom knows that he will soon have to go back home and leave the garden behind. And Hatty is growing noticeably older every time Tom sees her. Time is running out as Tom tries to solve the mystery of the garden and the clock before he has to return home.

A complex and emotional time travel story. Tom’s relationship with his new friend Hatty is moving without being sentimental. Throughout Tom is painted as a very real little boy, stubborn, moody and impulsive. Hatty is an orphan trapped in an unfriendly household and held to the strict expectations of proper Victorian female behaviour. Their friendship is a joy to the both of them, and it is heartbreaking to see Hatty growing up and away from her childhood “imaginary” friend.

Told with a deft hand, loading complexity upon complexity (as all the best time travel stories do), Tom’s Midnight Garden is a thought-provoking and moving story of two lonely children and a friendship that crosses all barriers. At the end Tom finds out the truth about Hatty, and finally meets her face to face in a very touching scene. A real children’s classic.

(available at



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