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Monday, October 4, 2010

Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian, 1981, * * * * *

Not everybody had a good time as an evacuee during the Second World War, but for eight-year-old Willie Beech, suddenly transferred from a deprived London background into the heart of the country, it is literally a lifeline. Willie is dumped on grumpy old Tom Oakley, the sharp-tongued widower, but he soon finds that Mister Tom is fair and friendly. Tom had heard of “ungrateful” and “wild” but Willie is different. He is so malnourished he can’t keeper a proper meal down, he wets the bed, he can’t read or write and he shivers and trembles a lot. Willie's needs are clear. And, to the intense interest of the entire village of Little Weirwold, Tom Oakley's stern manner melts slowly away as he takes on the task of raising Willie Beech. It's a voyage of discovery for both of them. Willie learns how it feels to have a proper home and friends, and Tom confronts the grief of bereavement which caused him to withdraw from village life all those years ago, when his young wife and baby son died.  The whole project nearly founders when Willie's mother recalls him to London. Returning reluctantly, Willie faces unspeakable horrors before he is rescued by Tom,  who travels through an air-raid in London to search for him.  This book is a gentle and moving story about the developing relationship of trust and love between Willie and Tom and is an engrossing and poignant story with sunlight to balance the darkness. I was amazed that I had never heard of the book before but would highly recommend it for adults as well as young readers.

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