Tom’s Midnight Garden – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

Tom’s Midnight Garden is an inspirational and timeless tale on most libraries’ shelves worldwide.

This classic story by Philippa Pearce is beloved among children, parents and teachers alike – but it isn’t just a simple story to read aloud.

Tom’s Midnight Garden offers countless opportunities for teaching valuable lessons about empathy, trust, courage and growing up; with the help of this planning overview, you’ll get an in-depth look at how to teach essential concepts using this beloved book as your guide.

Related: For more, check out our planning overview on Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden  here.

The Storyline of Tom’s Midnight Garden

Tom’s Midnight Garden is a classic children’s novel about an orphan named Tom Long who discovers a mysterious garden outside his aunt’s house. One night, Tom finds himself transported back in time to Edwardian England.

In the garden, he meets Hatty, a young girl from the past who talks of characters and creatures that come alive after midnight in the garden.

Tom and Hatty become the best of friends and embark on exciting adventures together throughout the magical garden while they battle against time to try and save it from the darkness.

Together they discover hidden secrets, uncover mysteries and unravel puzzles as they attempt to make a difference in their world-for for each other and everyone who visits the enchanted midnight garden.

Key Themes

  • Exploration: Tom explores the midnight garden – a secret place locked away for many years – and discovers a magical new world.
  • Friendship: Tom forms an unlikely friendship with Hatty, the girl in the garden, and they experience new adventures together.
  • Transformation: Tom constantly transforms as he encounters new characters and situations throughout his journey in the midnight garden.
  • Power of imagination: Tom’s vision allows him to explore elaborate worlds and has exciting adventures.
  • Courage: Through his courage and determination, Tom discovers that he can achieve anything if he sets his mind to it.
  • Self-discovery: By delving deep into himself and taking risks, Tom uncovers parts of himself that he never knew existed.
  • Value in relationships: With Hatty’s help, Tom learns to appreciate people for who they are rather than what they look like or what society expects them to be like.
  • Taking risks: As Tom takes more risks daily in his quest for knowledge, he discovers great rewards and unexpected dangers.
  • Finding balance: The story conveys that one must find a balance between themselves and those around one to be truly happy.

Main Characters

  • Tom Long: Tom is the protagonist of the story who discovers the midnight garden and embarks on a journey of exploration, adventure and transformation. He forms a special bond with Hatty, allowing him to understand himself better and take risks to reach his goals.
  • Hatty: Hatty is a mysterious figure from the past whom Tom meets in the midnight garden. She helps Tom understand that life should be filled with joy and friendship, not sorrow or loneliness. Through her support, he learns to value people for who they are rather than what society expects them to be like.
  • Mrs Bartholomew: The housekeeper at Aunt Gwen’s cottage, where Tom stays for part of his journey. Mrs Bartholomew helps Tom understand how the past shapes our present lives and the importance of family ties.
  • Aunt Gwen: A warm-hearted aunt whom Tom visits during his stay in England. She encourages him to find strength within himself to overcome any obstacle.
  • Uncle Alan: Uncle Alan is a mysterious figure from the past who teaches Tom about life’s mysteries and encourages him to explore his imagination.

Teaching opportunities

  • Exploring the power of imagination: Tom’s journey in the midnight garden inspires readers to explore their dreams and discover unknown realms.
  • Learning about courage: Through his daring quest to unlock the secrets of the garden, Tom demonstrates that having courage is essential for success.
  • Understanding the importance of relationships: Tom learns to appreciate people for who they are rather than what society expects them to be, teaching readers that we all need connections to be truly happy.
  • Discovering one’s identity: By taking risks and exploring his inner self, Tom finds hidden parts of himself that had been hidden away until then.
  • Developing problem-solving skills: With each challenge, Tom develops new strategies and solutions that are essential life lessons for readers.
  • Balancing conflicting interests: The story conveys that one must find a balance between themselves and those around one to make everyone happy.

Language Features To Be Taught

  • Vocabulary Building: As Tom embarks on an adventure filled with magical creatures, readers can explore new words and develop their vocabulary.
  • Descriptive Writing: Readers can learn to create vivid images of the story’s settings, characters and events through descriptive language.
  • Sentence Structure: By exploring different sentence structures, readers can learn how to arrange words and phrases in a way that’s pleasing to read.
  • Figurative Language: Through metaphors and similes, readers can communicate abstract ideas more effectively while improving their writing skills.
  • Point of View: To understand how different characters feel about each other or particular events, readers must learn how to read and write from different points of view.

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan 1: Vocabulary Building


Students will learn new words and build their vocabulary.

Materials Needed: Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce


  1. Read the first few pages of the story together as a class to discuss the setting, characters, and events.
  2. Give students a list of new words from the text and ask them to describe what each means in their own terms.
  3. Have students work in small groups to create synonyms and antonyms for each term on the list.
  4. Ask students to write their sentences using some new words they’ve learned.
  5. Assign a homework task for students to find five more words from the text that they don’t know and look up their definitions before the next class session.

Lesson Plan 2: Descriptive Writing


Students will learn to use descriptive language and create vivid images of scenes in a story. Materials Needed: Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, blank paper, writing utensils Procedure:

  1. Have students read an excerpt from Tom’s Midnight Garden together as a class and discuss any elements that stand out or are primarily descriptive.
  2. Explain to students that descriptive writing helps readers “see” what is happening in stories by providing precise details about settings, characters, and events that can spur imagination or add atmosphere/tension/etc.
  3. Divide students into small groups of three or four people and have each group select one scene from Tom’s Midnight Garden to focus on for this activity (e.g., Tom’s first visit to the garden after midnight).
  4. Give each group blank paper and writing utensils, then have them brainstorm ways to make this scene come alive through the description (e.g., think about all five senses when writing).
  5. Once finished, ask each group to share their reports with the rest of the class so everyone can enjoy all the different perspectives!

Assessment Pack for Tom’s Midnight Garden

This assessment pack is structured for students aged 8-11 and covers aspects of the story, such as composition and authorial style.


Students can discuss novel elements critically, demonstrating an understanding of story composition, characters, symbols and themes.

Materials Needed:

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, pencils/pens/markers, blank paper


  1. Have students read the novel’s first few chapters as a class or in small groups. Discuss any notable elements they’ve noticed (e.g., setting, characters).
  2. Ask each student to identify two characters from the story they want to focus on and write a short character profile for each (e.g., physical appearance, habits/hobbies).
  3. Split students into pairs or small groups and devise a list of possible symbolic meanings associated with Tom’s midnight garden (e.g., a place of freedom/adventure), then explain how events in the novel support these ideas.
  4. Each student should create two pieces of artwork inspired by their favourite scenes from the book – one focused on illustration and one focused on symbolism/themes.
  5. Give time for students to share their artwork before discussing its meaning in the book.

Website Resources

Teaching Ideas  provides teachers with various resources to help them plan lessons and activities around Tom’s Midnight Garden. In addition to discussion topics, some printable sheets and worksheets aid in developing literacy skills.

Rising Stars offers an assessment pack tailored to this book that covers aspects such as story composition and authorial style for readers aged 8 – 11.

Here is a list of other books written by Philippa Pearce:

  • The Minnow Leads to Treasure
  • A Dog So Small
  • Tom’s Midnight Garden
  • The Battle of Bubble and Squeak
  • Dear Nobody
  • The Book of Peculiar Perfumes
  • Molly’s Magic Carpet


Q: What is the book about?

A: Tom’s Midnight Garden is a novel by Philippa Pearce which follows the story of a young boy who is sent to stay with his aunt and uncle for the summer. He discovers an old, abandoned garden in the middle of the night with many secrets and adventures.

Q: Who is the author of this book?

A: The author of Tom’s Midnight Garden is Philippa Pearce. She wrote many other children’s books, including The Minnow Leads to Treasure and A Dog So Small.

Q: What age group is this book suitable for?

A: Tom’s Midnight Garden suits readers aged 8-11. It contains some themes which are more appropriate for older readers.

Q: Is there an accompanying activity pack available?

A: Yes! Rising Stars offers an assessment pack tailored to this book which covers aspects such as story composition and authorial style.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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