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NIGHT, MR. TOM
York : HarperCollins, 1986.
5-8, RL 5.9
Tomas Oakley is an old man, much too old to take care of a young boy from
the city. He’s also a gruff old bachelor who’s never had kids around.
But it is during World War II and all the children are being moved away
from the bombs falling in London to the country where they will be safe.
The boy, Willie, is small and thin. He’s so scared that he can hardly say
a word, but it turns out that he’s not just scared of being in a new place
with an old man he doesn’t know. There’s more, much more. Tom first notices
a bruise on his ankle, then another higher on his leg. When Tom leaves,
Willie says to himself, “I must be good. I must be good.”
"He rubbed a sore spot on his arm. He was such a bad boy. Mum
said she was kinder to him than most mothers she only gave him soft
beatings. He was dreading the moment when Mr. Oakley would discover how
bad he was. He looked stronger than Mum."
In time, Willie learns that Mr. Tom, as he calls him, will not beat him,
even when he really is bad. A trust builds up between them. The trouble
really starts when Willie goes home for a visit. Willie’s Mother
has a surprise for him a new sister. But when he first sees
the baby, she is lying in a box in the corner of the room with tape over
her mouth so she won’t cry. When he tries to pick her up, his mother
tells him to stop, saying “She’s just trying to get attention. She needs
a little discipline.” When Willie shows his mother the things he brought
to her from the country, she believes that he stole them. For the
first time in his life, Willie is talking to her. This must stop.
The situation was worse than she had ever imagined. It would take
a lot of hard work to silence him into obedience. George Pilling