Good Night, Mr. Tom

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Good Night, Mr. Tom Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
A devastatingly powerful, intense tale of abuse and love.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 14 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers not only get a classic story here, but they also learn a bit about what happened to London's children during World War II. This might inspire further reading and research.

Positive Messages

This is a story about love, and how deep and lasting the bonds we form with others can be.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mr. Tom loves Willie like a son, offers him love that he never had, and searches for him when he does not hear from the boy.


Child abuse: the actions aren't shown, but the results are graphically described. Will is forced to return home to his insanely abusive mother. Many extremely intense scenes involving death and abuse and their aftermaths, some very graphic.


Will notices Carrie is starting to develop. A brief discussion of sex.


Rare, mild.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this award-winning novel about an abused boy who goes to live with a lonely man during the London Blitz is riveting, complex, and an emotional blockbuster of a novel; kids will be laughing, crying, and unable to put it down. There are many extremely intense scenes involving death
and abuse and their aftermaths -- some very graphic. In the end, kids will be moved by the deep bond between Mr. Tom and Willie -- and the story might inspire further reading and research about World War II.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bynetkabuki August 25, 2012

Touching and inspiring story of love, tragedy and resilience of spirit

Superb portrayal of the complex relationship between the abused boy who doesn't know he is abused and the curmudgeon who has no desire to step back into th... Continue reading
Adult Written byFran Katzenjammer May 14, 2010

Inspiring and challenging, for Primary and up

This was the class book in year 5, so we were 9 to 10 years old. I was 9 and adored it, I still do at 18.
The physical abuse Will suffers only serves to make it... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bybasketballdude04 April 9, 2008
Kid, 12 years old June 23, 2021


This book is really well-written and is an emotional rollercoaster, but the main character suffer very bad abuse,Another Child is killed and is in general very... Continue reading

What's the story?

When Willie comes to board with Tom Oakley during World War II's London Blitz, Mr. Tom realizes the boy has been abused. But when Willie's mother sends for him, and Mr. Tom doesn't hear from him again, he goes to London to find out what has happened to the boy. One of the most devastatingly powerful children's novels ever written.

Is it any good?

The story of Willie's recovery from severe abuse is given an unusually rich and vivid setting in this complex, multilayered novel. The book reads like a page-turner, though it is only in the central section, when Tom journeys to London to find Willie, that there is real action and suspense. But the rest is filled with vivid, tender portrayals and set pieces. This is a novel of terrible beauty, of the triumph of the spirit torn from the jaws of violence and tragedy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the difficult material here. What age do you think this book is for? Was there anything you found too intense?

  • This book has won several awards, including the 1982 International Reading Association Children's Book Award and the American Library Association's Notable Children's Books of 1982. Why do you think it is so highly regarded? Does it make a difference to you if a book has won awards or praise?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and historical fiction

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