Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce, adapted to graphic novel form by Edith, for Timeslip Tuesday

Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce, is a lovely classic timeslip story, and I'm thrilled that it's now out in the world as a beautiful graphic novel, from French artist Edith (Greenwillow, 2018).

Here's what I said in my post from years ago on the original book (published in 1958):

Tom had been looking forward to the summer vacation--he and his brother Peter had great tree house building plans. But when Peter came down with measles, Tom is sent off to stay with his uncle and aunt, in a small flat that had been chopped out of an old Victorian house. Unable to sleep, Tom is drawn downstairs by the grandfather clock in the hall outside striking thirteen, and opening the back door of the house, finds the Garden...

"a great lawn where flower-beds bloomed; a towering fir-tree, and thick, beetle-browed yews that humped there shapes down two sides of the lawn; on the third side, to the right, a greenhouse almost the size of a real house; from each corner of the lawn a path that twisted away to some other depths of garden with other trees."

Great and terrible is Tom's disappointment the next day, when he opens the same door and sees only dustbins--the land belonging to the old house had been built up years ago. But the next night, the clock strikes again, and Tom steps back again into the past when the garden still existed. There he meets small orphaned Hattie, who also longs for a playmate, and night after night they share the trees, the hiding places, the orchard, meadow, and river, and all the other things that every perfect garden has.

But time doesn't stay still. In the past, Hattie grows older, in the present, Tom grows more desperate to enjoy the garden before he has to go home, and his brother Peter grows lonelier. And at last, one night Tom opens the door, and the garden is no longer there.

This isn't a book where Lots of Things Happen. It is subtle in its buildup, and unhurried in its descriptions. The small adventures that Hattie and Tom have in the garden and its environs are not particularly strange and wonderful--but because these two children have become friends across time, each one suspecting that the other is a ghost, their encounters are magical. And because Pearce takes her time in describing each of Tom's visits to the garden, and describes at length as well Tom's daytime thoughts, as he tries to figure out what is happening, the reader gets to follow at Tom's pace, and appreciate it all along with him.

So I was curious to see if the graphic novel would be able to convey both the shear wonder of the garden, and the tight focus on what Tom is thinking.  Yes to both counts, although perhaps more successfully for the later.  Which is a bit ironic perhaps, but the garden the words built in my mind pretty much defies illustration.   Still it is beautiful.  And we really do get a very good sense of Tom in the daylight world struggling to make sense of what is happening, and the ending as presented here is I think even more successful than in the book; it is a bit more sustained and given a bit more weight by the juxtaposition of words and images.

So in short, yay for this wonderful opportunity for kids who wouldn't be drawn to an old English book to meet this lovely story!

1 comment:

  1. This looks beautiful. How wonderful that a book from 1958 has been turned into a graphic novel for kids today to discover and enjoy. Thanks for sharing. I am intrigued by the story. :)


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