Magorian, Michelle 1947-

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Magorian, Michelle 1947-
(Michelle Jane Magorian)


Born 1947, in Portsmouth, England; married, 1987; children: two sons. Education: Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama, diploma, 1969; University of London, certificate in film studies, 1984; attended L'Ècole Internationale de Mime, 1969-70. Hobbies and other interests: Reading.


Agent—Patricia White, Rogers, Coleridge & White, 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN, England.


Writer and actress. Appeared in several television programs and the 1980 film McVicar; performed in mime shows; performed in repertory productions for more than fifteen years.


Carnegie Medal commendation, Library Association, 1981, children's book award, International Reading Association, and British Guardian Award for Children's Literature, 1982, citation as "one of the nation's 100 best-loved novels" by the British public as part of The Big Read campaign, British Broadcasting Corp., 2005, and South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, all for Good Night, Mr. Tom; American Library Association, citation among "best books for young adults," 1982, for Good Night, Mr. Tom, and 1984, for Back Home, selected as "top choice," 1992, for Not a Swan; West Australian Young Readers' Book Award, Library Association of Australia, 1983, for Good Night, Mr. Tom, and 1987, for Back Home; received honorary doctorate, 2005.


Good Night, Mr. Tom (young adult novel), Kestrel (London, England), 1981, Harper (New York, NY), 1982.

Back Home (young adult novel), Harper (New York, NY), 1984.

Waiting for My Shorts to Dry (poetry for young children), illustrated by Jean Baylis, Kestrel (London, England), 1989.

Who's Going to Take Care of Me? (juvenile picture book), illustrated by James Graham Hale, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1990.

A Little Love Song (novel), Methuen (London, England), 1991, published as Not a Swan, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.

Orange Paw Marks (poetry for children), illustrated by Jean Baylis, Kestrel (London, England), 1991.

Jump! (juvenile picture book), illustrated by Jan Ormerod, Walker Books (New York, NY), 1992.

In Deep Water (short stories), Viking (New York, NY), 1992.

Cuckoo in the Nest (novel), Methuen (London, England), 1994.

Spoonful of Jam (novel), Methuen (London, England), 1998.

(Librettist and lyricist) Goodnight Mister Tom (musical play; based on her young adult novel), music by Gary Carpenter, Joseph Weinberger (London, England), 2001.

Be Yourself (short stories), Egmont (London, England), 2003.

Author of libretto (with Peter Venner) for Sea Change (musical play), composed by Stephen Keeling; librettist and lyricist, Tinsel (musical play; originally titled "Canapés for Company"), composed by Robert Buckley; librettist (with Heather Cairncross), Hello Life! (solo jazz musical), composed by Alexander Le Strange, first performed at Buxton Festival, 2002; contributor of lyrics to the musical play Café Diablo, composed by Robert Buckley, performed in the Netherlands, 2005; also author of television scripts. Work represented in anthologies, including They Wait and Other Stories, compiled by Lance Salway, illustrated by Jill Bennet, Pepper Press, 1983; Guardian Angels, compiled by Stephanie Nettell, illustrated by Mike Daley, Viking Kestrel (London, England), 1987; You're Late Dad, edited by Tony Bradman, Methuen Children's Books (London, England), 1989; Love Them, Hate Them, edited by Tony Bradman, Methuen Children's Books (London, England), 1991; and Stage Struck, edited by Jean Richardson, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1991. Contributor of short stories to periodicals.


Good Night, Mr. Tom was adapted for radio in Sweden, read on radio in England, recorded as an audio book narrated by Patrick Malahide, and adapted by Brian Finch as a television drama. Back Home was adapted as a television drama on two different occasions, first by David Wood in 1989 and later by Finch, adapted for a British radio reading, and recorded as an audio book by Stephanie Cole in 2004. Stories from In Deep Water were adapted for British radio.


Michelle Magorian began her literary career by writing short stories in her spare time. Eventually, she decided to attempt a children's novel, and three years later Good Night, Mr. Tom was published.

Both Good Night, Mr. Tom and Back Home depict the disruption to the lives of their protagonists caused by World War II. In each work, a resolution is achieved through trust and communication with an older character. Critics have cited Magorian's novels for their believable characterizations, mature subject matter, and accurate portraits of England and America during the 1940s.

Good Night, Mr. Tom grew out of a short story about two characters: Tom, a reclusive widower, and Willie, a young boy sent to live with Tom during the war. Although she was born after World War II ended, the author researched the era to provide her book with authentic details. The author explained that it took three years to write Good Night, Mr. Tom because of her theater work. Magorian commented: "The story is about how [Mr. Tom] and Willie both change through living together."

While performing research for Good Night, Mr. Tom, Magorian unearthed a photograph that would haunt her and become the basis for her second young adult novel, Back Home. The photograph depicted a group of English children returning to England after a five-year stay in America during World War II. Magorian noticed that they looked "Americanized" and wondered how they coped with their reintegration into British society.

Back Home is the story of Rusty, an adolescent who has spent the war years with relatives in America. The story focuses on how Rusty adapts to postwar England. The story also focuses on Peggy, Rusty's mother, who discovered "new strengths and abilities" during the war and who subsequently has a more liberal view regarding traditional gender roles for her and her children, according to Caroline C. Hunt in Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers.

"Although all of … Magorian's young adult novels take place during World War II, their subjects would have been unmentionable in juvenile fiction of the 1940s: child abuse, illegitimacy, sexuality, gender roles, and class differences," suggested Hunt. "Yet these are not harsh books, thanks to Magorian's engaging protagonists, her sensitive yet powerful writing style, and her emotional honesty."



Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.


Booklist, August, 1992, Karen Hutt, review of Not a Swan, p. 2005; April 1, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Good Night, Mr. Tom, p. 1429.

Commonweal, March 23, 1984, review of Good Night, Mr. Tom, p. 177.

Horn Book, June, 1982, review of Good Night, Mr. Tom, pp. 299-300; January-February, 1985, Nancy C. Hammond, review of Back Home, pp. 60-61; January-February, 1991, Carolyn K. Jenks, review of Who's Going to Take Care of Me?, p. 58.

New Yorker, December 6, 1982, Faith McNulty, review of Good Night, Mr. Tom, p. 192.

New York Times Book Review, April 25, 1982, Selma G. Lanes, review of Good Night, Mr. Tom, p. 34.

Publishers Weekly, October 26, 1984, review of Back Home, p. 105; July 20, 1992, review of Not a Swan, pp. 251-252.

School Library Journal, April 15, 1982, review of Good Night, Mr. Tom, p. 73; August, 1983, review of Good Night, Mr. Tom, p. 27; October, 1984, Lillian N. Gerhardt, review of Back Home, p. 169; September, 1992, Lucinda Lockwood, review of Not a Swan, p. 278.


Kidz Books Web site, (December, 2005), Avital Dines, interview with Michelle Magorian.

Michelle Magorian: Author and Actor, (October 9, 2006).