Monday, 14 March 2011
Goodnight Mr Tom (Michelle Magorian) and children's wartime literature
A bit of a double post today. Ceri from Riot Communications recently sent me a copy of Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian; it's a new special edition published by Puffin books to celebrate 30 years since it was issued.
How good to have a chance to read this book again. It tells the story of the evacuee Will, a boy from the city, who is billeted in a village with the somewhat gruff Mr Thomas Oakley. Will has had a somewhat traumatic childhood and it takes him a while to settle in, but Mr Tom does wonderful things for the boy, providing new clothes, good food and above all friendship and love. Mr Tom also learns from the child, rediscovering the pleasure of having someone else to look out for and care about. It sounds a bit cheesy, but the story of this unlikely relationship is set within vivid descriptions of what it is like to live as a child in wartime Britain.
As part of reading about the book, I saw that it has been made into a stage play, and I am gutted to have missed it when it came to High Wycombe (the nearest location to me) - but if you live near any of the other theatres on the tour schedule and have a chance to go and see it please let me know what you think.
Rereading this book also got me thinking about children's wartime stories. There are so many of them! At the end of the month, I am looking forward to going to see the Once upon a wartime exhibition at the Imperial War Museum with Paperback Reader Claire which brings 5 wartime books to life (including Carrie's War (which is one of my favourites), War Horse (which I thought made a fantastic stage adaption), The silver sword (something I haven't read for years which I really must return to), The machine gunners (another classic, although I didn't come to it until my teenage years) and the only one that I haven't read - Little soldier). Rambling Fancy wrote about the exhibition recently too which was what brought it to my attention.
I have a couple of wartime children's books on my TBR at present by two particularly key wartime-childrens-books writers (Blitz Cat (Robert Westall) and Private Peaceful (Michael Morpurgo) and hope to read them in the next couple of weeks, in anticipation of visiting the IWM. But what I wanted to do was ask you what your favourite (s) children's wartime themed book is? I don't want to make a complete list of books (although I might do in due course), but I'd love to know what people feel the best one's are. For me, Goodnight Mr Tom certainly ranks highly, but I think I slightly prefer Michelle Magorian's slightly more female novel, Back home. I also love the way that wartime features in soe many of Noel Streatfeild's books, as backdrop more than anything else. Do share with me!