Children's Books Wiki


Tom Long's brother has the measles and he is sent to stay with his Aunt and Uncle for the duration. They live in a flat with no garden, and an elderly landlady. Bored and homesick, confined to the flat all day in case he is infectious, Tom finds it hard to sleep. Then one night he hears the clock strike thirteen. When he creeps downstairs to investigate, he finds that the back door opens onto a huge garden. Outside he finds that nobody can see him except a lonely little girl named Hatty. Each night he goes back to visit her and they have adventures in her world; but each night she is a different age. He slowly realizes she lives in the 19th century. At the end of the story he discovers that the little girl is now the elderly landlady, and she has been dreaming about the adventures they shared together in her childhood.

Reader's Reviews[]


I read this as a child and I have read it to my own children: highly recommended.


I have read this, and watched the movie. Personally I can't understand its attraction; it has no basic story, no explanation, and a whole load about "time no longer". The time travel doesn't seem to work for me, and it also has a (relatively) sad ending. It also has little "point" to it, lacking any sort of storyline.


I actually very much enjoyed the book, although I first read it as an adult. It is a classic "secret world" story in many ways; the boy does not realize he is traveling through time for much of the story.


I very recently read this book, and it's very good. I'm not saying it's best for me, but I'm sure others do.


Tom finds a huge garden at the back of his auntie and uncle’s house, where he is staying for the summer. This might not sound unusual, except that the garden only appears when the grandfather clock in the hall strikes thirteen. In the daytime there is no garden, only a small paved yard. We experience this exciting adventure through Tom’s eyes. When Tom finds a play mate in the garden it dawns on him that when he meets her she is sometimes older or younger than the last time he met her! Both children are lonley and in need of a friend, and that is the main theme of the book - friendship across genders, ages and across time and also how friendship alters when you grow up. Pearce writes with beautifully. You feel at home in the magical garden because it is so well described, making it seem real. But it is an enchanted place where surreal things happen - Tom can do things like pushing through solid doors. It is suitable for boys and girls as it has a magical/mystery theme. The ending is sad and happy at the same time. Give it a read.

Parental Guidance[]

  • Reading Age: 8+
  • Reading Aloud Age: 7+

Younger children may not understand the "explanation" at the end but I think they will very much enjoy the adventure which forms the core of the book.

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