Tom’s Midnight Garden

Written by Edith Philippa Pearce (original author)
Review by Jane Burke

This beloved children’s book – one of the most re-read classics ever – is here brought up to date with a graphic novel treatment that keeps its mysteries intact. There is no attempt at superficial modernization; it remains set in the 1950s, yet its thoughtful explorations into the nature of time and memory are perhaps even more relevant today that they were a generation ago.

Tom’s brother has the measles, and Tom is exiled to the child-free home of a dour aunt and uncle. A bleak daytime existence is transformed at midnight as the grandfather clock in the downstairs hallway chimes thirteen. When Tom goes to investigate and opens the back door, he finds not the grimy yard of his daytime experience, but a large and sunny garden filled not only with lawns and flower-beds, but with people who cannot see or hear him. Or at least, this is what he thinks until he meets Hatty. Adventure, peril and surprise follow, with a final moving twist to its resolution.

This can seem a scary story. Real-life scenes are drab, adults can be tedious, indifferent or hostile, and there are passages of dark and creepy menace. Yet once Tom enters the garden, all is transformed into vivid vistas of almost tropical greens and yellows, with hyacinths and gnarled old yew trees depicted in clear detail, with fields of cows where houses should be crammed together, and where winter sets in with crisp white snow and skateable ice. This is a very real fantasy world, and one that sets its protagonists free. If time can be infinite, then we are never ghosts as long as we are remembered.

This novel has always intrigued children, and will continue to do so in this new format. Suitable for young readers aged nine or ten and up.