Subscribe to The Horn Book

>Yes, another time-travel post

>Has anyone else seen Source Code yet? The ending reminded me of Tom’s Midnight Garden (that cool thing with the skates) although I don’t think it completely held together. Post any theories in the comments and don’t hold back on spoilers. Also feel free to speculate on the wonderful Vera Farmiga’s resemblance to Pam on The Office.

Speaking of Tom, when I was at TLA last week Betty Carter reported on the same phenomenon I’ve noticed: grad students today hate the book. Why is that?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Leigh@SAPL says:

    >I think because there are newer books with similiar themes. And the writing seems a little stiff and old fashioned.

  2. Brenda Ferber says:

    >I think it's one of those spinny endings, where if you think about it too much, it doesn't make sense anymore. But I still liked it. Was the ending all in his head? Are there parallel universes? Or did he actually go back in time and change things? My money is on it being his world but nobody else's. In other words, it was all in his head, and the train still blew up.
    It reminded me of Before I Fall but with a happier ending.
    Very curious as to what other people think.

  3. >What grad students?

    We had a great on line discussion of Tom's Midnight Garden at Vermont College last year. It has wonderful word play and a sophisticated treatment of time, not just the time travel element but with flash forwards and flash backs, clock imagery and more. Maybe it isn't as angsty and flashy as contemporary fantasy. Perhaps it's even a little slow paced compared to most books published today. Everyone didn't love it (of course not!) but there was a lot to admire and I don't think one single person hated it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    >The story unfolds very slowly, one has to invest some time and effort before it envelopes you. Most kids (and maybe even grad students, now) expect a quicker payoff.

  5. Roger Sutton says:

    >These are library school students, Tami, and I suspect they are echoing the preferences of children today, as Irene says. But I can't think of another time-travel novel for kids that makes its mechanics so convincing.

  6. KT Horning says:

    >I agree, Roger. I didn't even have to make a leap of faith when I read the passage about the ice skates and, for that fleeting moment, I felt as though I understood quantum physics. I now use "Tom's Midnight Garden" as the measuring stick for all time-travel stories, and everything else falls short.

    I've always regretted that I didn't find it as a child. I would have loved it then, even more than I do as an adult. Why it was not in my school or public library, I'll never know. Maybe U.S. library school students never liked it.

  7. >I treasure Tom's Midnight Garden, even though it wasn't published until I was an adult. It's a near-perfect book. The skates gave me goosebumps, and I bet they still would. Readers who don't have the patience don't know what they're missing. It's sad, isn't it?

  8. Roger Sutton says:

    >Leda, I don't think you are that old. I also notice that in 100 Best Books for Children Anita Silvey says Tom "speaks to those [adults] who love children's books" rather than children themselves. I think we could each make a list of those but I'm not sure I would put Pearce's book on mine. I wonder what its reception was among young readers in 1958.

  9. KT Horning says:

    >Hmmm, it's hard to know for sure but I am pretty sure I would have loved Tom's Midnight Garden as a kid. But then I also liked Fog Magic, The Cloud Forest, The Secret Language, Berries Goodman, most of the Newberies, and lots of other "unpopular" books.

  10. Anonymous says:

    >1958? You're right, Roger.

  11. Paper cup machines says:

    >I agree with you roger..

  12. Andy Laties says:

    >I read Tom's Midnight Garden at age 10 — during a family trip to England in 1970 — it haunted me for years –I forgot the title, forgot where I'd read the story — just had a vague memory of the story.

    I picked it up for sale at The Children's Bookstore in Chicago not because I remembered the book but because it was on some recommended book-list or other. It was on my shelves for some time before I picked it up and started skimming it. Only then — aged 30 or so — did I remember the entire experience of reading it as a child.

    Usually when I rediscover a book in this way I am very disappointed, and even sorry that I re-encountered the book as an adult. But this was not one of those situations. I really loved the book as an adult.

    Still, I do agree that if college students today dislike it, that must be because of the burst of glitzy sci-fi writing in the past couple of decades in comparison with which Tom may seem a bit stodgy.

    However I do think it's a terrific piece of literature, and certainly great for any 10 year old.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind