|Good Night, Mr. Tom|
by Michelle Magorian
"London is poised on the brink of World War II. Timid, scrawny Willie Beech -- the abused child of a single mother -- is evacuated to the English countryside. At first, he is terrified of everything, of the country sounds and sights, even of Mr. Tom, the gruff, kindly old man who has taken him in. But gradually Willie forgets the hate and despair of his past. He learns to love a world he never knew existed, a world of friendship and affection in which harsh words and daily beatings have no place. Then a telegram comes. Willie must return to his mother in London. When weeks pass by with no word from Willie, Mr. Tom sets out for London to look for the young boy he has come to love as a son."
I discovered this book when I saw it listed in the BBC's 100 Favorite Books list. It had been sitting on one of our school's library shelves for years and had rarely been checked out. How sad that makes me now, because this book is beautiful. I have so many students who read A Child Called It and ask for other books like it. I try to get them to check out this one because it deals with a lot of the same issues, but in a more hopeful way. Unfortunately the stigma of historical fiction and an older book always talks them out of it, because while this book is both heart-breaking and disturbing, it is also lovely and uplifting. I highly recommend this book for middle school and up. It's the kind of book that makes you feel truly grateful for the blessings in your own life, and you just want to hug the book when you finish it.
Areas of concern: There are some very disturbing allusions to and scenes of abuse.
Two boys have a frank (but pretty tasteful) discussion about sex.