Michelle Magorian’s heartwarming novel, Good Night, Mr. Tom, is not only a touching read but an intriguing one. It tells the story of eight-year-old William Beech, the abused boy of a troubled single mother. He is evacuated from London to a cozy town in the English countryside at and finds himself in the care of Thomas Oakley. “Mister Tom,” as he is endearingly called by Willie, is known around the village of Little Weirwold as apathetic and gruff.
Caring for Willie is just the kind of medicine he needs to turn his personality around, and it does Willie wonders as well. What really makes Good Night, Mr. Tom such a moving read is that it is easily relatable and sets readers up to care about the characters and appreciate their life in modern-day Maine. The events, characters, and setting of the story are very realistic, making the book easy to connect to. Magorian pays attention to detail and never skimps on descriptions, which makes a big difference. Take the dialog, for example.
In Little Weirwold, where Willie stays with Mister Tom, villagers use a unique slang that is clearly recognizable in even the shortest of lines: “’E’s a spry ole thing, but he’s as soft as butter, ent you, ole boy? ” This particular sentence is uttered by Tom himself as he convinces Willie that his dog is nothing to be afraid of. There’s more than just slang to be examined in that quote, however. From one simple sentence, it is easy to see how much Tom loves his dog. Phrases such as “ole boy” are associated with affection and fondness and are usually used by caring pet owners, a fact recognizable if you are a pet owner yourself.
In addition to dialog and terms of endearment, Magorian creates situations that ninety-nine percent of the population has been through. In one instance, Willie and a few of his newly befriended pals walk into the school hall on the first day. They see the last remaining chairs to sit in right in the front row and excitedly grab them “afore the big uns get them. ” Too late, the boys realize why their seats had been left empty: the children in front of them are sitting on the floor, “… so that the five of them were now very exposed.
” This prevents them from whispering or, as George says, slipping toffees in their mouths. Nearly everyone has been in a similar predicament when they think there is a great opportunity and then regret the decision to jump on it. Additionally, Magorian incorporates memorable elements of childhood. For example, classroom jobs are assigned in Willie’s homeroom: “Patsy was the milk monitor for the week. Mrs. Hartridge had taken to heating the milk, now the weather was so cold. She poured it into cups and Patsy carried them two at a time to the desks.
” It is easy to picture the whole scene as the students thank Patsy for their milk and Patsy shrugs in response, eager for next week to arrive when she will be assigned the role of table cleaner. It is the specifics that Magorian includes that really make the book relatable to a broad audience. Perhaps it is partly due to this connectability that readers come to care about the characters so deeply. In the very beginning of the book, Tom is portrayed as an irritable recluse who has not yet overcome the loss of his wife and son.
As soon as he takes in Willie, however, his attitude warms up and it is plain to see that he loves the boy. He still tries to hold on to some of his crustiness, but it becomes harder and harder for him not to melt around Willie. Take a look at this quote from early on: “‘You can put that ole bag down,’ he said gruffly. ‘You ent goin’ no place else. ’” Compare it to this one, an excerpt from the later half of the book: “‘Now you takes care of yourself, boy. You keeps up that ole drawrin’. You’ve a fine gift. If you runs out of pencils, you lets me know.
’” Since readers have watched Tom’s character brighten, they are able to establish a bond with the old man. They are proud of him for opening up and want others to see how he has changed. Just as Tom’s personality blossoms caring for Willie, Willie’s changes for the better under Tom’s care. When readers are first introduced to Willie, they take pity on him. He is a “… timid, sickly little specimen” whose mother beats him regularly with a belt buckle. Readers read with wonder and glee as Willie grows mentally and physically.
He becomes a playful country boy with a taste for adventure and lots of friends, and upon seeing this transformation the hearts of the readers burst with joy. Speaking of friends, the reader comes to like Zach as well because he welcomes Willie into the village with enthusiasm. The two boys become best buddies, and readers are thankful to him for befriending Willie in such a new and intimidating place. This appreciation is proved when Willie and Tom receive the awful news that Zach has been killed while visiting his parents in London. The story suddenly feels empty without Zach’s “wizard!
Out of all the characters that the reader comes to care about, Zach is probably the most profoundly felt. There is no doubt, however, that readers think of all the characters with affection. While indulging in Good Night, Mr. Tom, readers have a lot going through their mind: not only are they relating to the story and connecting to the characters, but also coming to appreciate their own life in modern-day Maine. Between the mesmerizing crashing of waves on rocky beaches and the majestic mountains bordering the sea, there’s just not much to complain about Maine.
Racism, sexism, and crime hardly ever make headlines in the local papers; besides, here in the twenty-first century such events are rare to begin with. However, when readers immerse themselves in this novel, all of that changes. Suddenly it is not out of the ordinary for such outdated crimes to be committed. Some of these offenses are minor, such as when Willie’s friend Carrie complains that her mom won’t let her wear shorts: “She’d been asking her mother for ages if she could wear shorts, but had been told that she’d turn into a boy if she did and no man would want to marry her.
” A rule like that seems almost laughable now, and the stark difference in terms of acceptability is wake-up call to readers. Taking it a step farther, the condition of Willie’s mother’s London apartment is dreadful. It doesn’t help that a war is raging, but in comparison to today’s standards it is atrocious nonetheless: “There was a strong dank smell coming from somewhere. It was as if an animal had opened its bowels or peed somewhere. ” To think that a grown woman is allowed to raise a child in such a place is incomprehensible.
Perhaps it is not so unbelievable, however, when you consider a final example: the fact that the same lady abuses her son terribly both mentally and physically. She instills unrealistic ideas in Willie’s head such as the color red being sinful and that God will send him to hell for his wrongdoings. Not only this, but she beats him savagely, leaving large welts and bruises all over his body: “Something heavy hit him across the head and he sank into a cold darkness. He could still hear her screaming and he knew she was hitting him, but he felt numb and separated from himself.
He had become two people and one of his selves was hovering above him watching what was happening to his body. ” No one should go through anything like that, especially not a child. Such an experience seems even more appalling today because it is strictly against the law. Readers recognize without question how much twentieth century Maine has changed for the better after reading this novel. Because of the easy relatability, developed affection towards the characters, and grown appreciation of present-day Maine, Good Night, Mr.
Tom is a truly touching read. Those who immerse themselves in its pages are in for a treat; they will find themselves connecting with the plot and really caring about the characters without even realizing they are doing so. Not only this, but after they put the novel down they will become aware of the fact that they are more thankful of what modern Maine has to offer. There is no doubt that you will be impressed and deeply moved by Michelle Magorian’s book.