(Ann) Philippa Pearce The Junior Bookshelf - Essay

The Junior Bookshelf

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The second novels of brilliant beginners are so often disappointing. Miss Pearce's successor to Minnow has now appeared after three years, and her most enthusiastic admirer need have no fear. Here is no second and inferior Minnow, but a book entirely different in every respect except excellence. (p. 333)

[Tom's Midnight Garden] is an original treatment of a "time" theme, with a brilliant surprise ending—at least it took one reader completely by surprise.

Miss Pearce's magic comes from several sources, from her deep understanding of her characters young and old, from a sense of time, most of all from a mastery of words. Her prose is a miracle of simplicity. Using no tricks, she evokes the atmosphere of the lost garden so vividly that the reader shares Tom's experiences in it and sees with him its ghostly inhabitants. This is a very clever book, but its greatest cleverness is that only on reflection does the reader realise how brilliant the writing is, how sound the observation, with what minute care every detail of the story is fitted into the mosaic. Most children will see none of this, but will surrender readily to its charm and interest and come under the influence of its beauty and wisdom. Don't let us say: "Better (or less good) than Minnow." Merely: "Thank you, Miss Pearce, for a book of rare quality!" (p. 334)

"The New Books: 'Tom's Midnight Garden'," in The Junior Bookshelf, Vol. 22, No. 6, December, 1958, pp. 333-34.