Michelle Magorian

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Michelle Magorian
Born (1947-11-06) 6 November 1947 (age 72)
Bristol, Thornbury, England
OccupationWriter, Actress
GenreChildren's novels
Notable worksGoodnight Mister Tom
Notable awardsGuardian Prize
Costa Book Award

Michelle Magorian (born 6 November 1947) is an English author of children's books. She is best known for her first novel, Goodnight Mister Tom, which won the 1982 Guardian Prize for British children's books[1] and has been adapted several times for screen or stage. Two other well-known works are Back Home and A Little Love Song. She resides in Petersfield, Hampshire.[2]


Michelle Magorian was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, and is of Armenian origin.[3] She lived in Singapore and Australia from age seven to nine. As a child she spent as much time as possible in the King's Theatre in Portsmouth and her ambition was to become an actress. After three years of study at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama, she spent two years at Marcel Marceau's L'école Internationale de Mime in Paris. From there she launched into a professional acting career and spent a few years touring all over the country - from Scotland to Devon and then Yorkshire - working in repertory companies, taking any part she could. Michelle's worst stage part was playing Orinoco in The Wombles musical. All this time she had been secretly writing stories. When she was 24 she became interested in children's books, and decided to write one herself.

The result was Goodnight Mister Tom. The idea for the book came from the colours in a song from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She thought of brown as an earthy, old colour and green as a colour of youth. The character of William Beech came into her head because she thought of a beech tree with its slim trunk and it gave her the idea for a slim young boy. Some details for the story came from her mother's tales about her time as a nurse in World War II. She needed four-and-a-half years to complete it because she was also working in the theatre. After she had finished the book, she joined a novel-writing class, at which she shared the book. It was published by Kestrel Books in 1981 and quickly became an international success. At home Magorian won the annual Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime award judged by a panel of British children's writers[1] and she was a commended runner up for the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject.[4][a] She also won the International Reading Association Children's Book Award. The book was adapted as a film of the same name by ITV and aired in 1998; it has also been adapted as a musical.

Magorian followed Good Night Mister Tom with Back Home (1984), another story about a child evacuated during World War II. Where Mister Tom featured a London boy living in the English countryside during the war, Back Home featured a girl struggling back home in Britain after five years with a family in United States.

A Little Love Song (Not a Swan in the US), her third novel, features a young woman becoming independent and finding first love in wartime Britain. Most of Magorian's other books are also set in the mid-20th century, often based around theatres. She has written three more novels —Cuckoo in the Nest (1994), A Spoonful of Jam (1998), and Just Henry (2008)— and two collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, and two picture books.

In 2007, she received an honorary doctorate from Portsmouth University.[5]

Just Henry won the 2008 Costa Book Award in the Children's Book category.[6]


  • Goodnight Mister Tom (1981) (ISBN 0-7226-5701-3)
  • Back Home (1984) (ISBN 0-06-440411-0)
  • Waiting for My Shorts to Dry (1989)
  • Who's Going to Take Care of Me? (1990)
  • Orange Paw Marks (1991)
  • A Little Love Song (1991) (ISBN 0-7497-1061-6); U.S. title, Not a Swan
  • In Deep Water (1992)
  • Jump (1992)
  • A Cuckoo in the Nest (1994)
  • A Spoonful of Jam (1998)
  • Be Yourself (2003)
  • Just Henry (2008)
  • Impossible (2014) (ISBN 978-1-909991-04-0)


Year Film Role
2011 Just Henry writer (novel)
2001 Back Home writer (novel)
1998 Goodnight Mister Tom writer (novel)
1990 Back Home writer (novel)
1980 McVicar Secretary
1979 An Honourable Retirement Loretta
1978 Lillie (TV series) Cicely Courtneidge

See also[edit]

Goodnight Mister Tom


  1. ^ Today there are usually eight books on the Carnegie shortlist. According to CCSU some runners up through 2002 were Commended (from 1955) or Highly Commended (from 1966). There were about 160 commendations of both kinds in 48 years, including three for 1981 (one highly commended).


  1. ^ a b "Guardian children's fiction prize relaunched: Entry details and list of past winners". Guardian.co.uk 12 March 2001. Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  2. ^ "Local author misses out on award". News, Portsmouth. 28 January 2009. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  3. ^ "Kidz Books". Michelle Magorian. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Carnegie Medal Award". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  5. ^ "News". Michelle Magorian. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  6. ^ "Welcome to the Costa Book Awards - Costa Coffee". Costabookawards.com. Retrieved 19 September 2015.

External links[edit]