Even when things seem at their darkest, there is always a flicker of light. The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery is so much more than a story about the Second World War. It explores darkness, light, hope and love within layers and layers of meaning. Both the internal and external battles portrayed in this story will ring true with every reader on some level. On the surface, it is the story of Col, an evacuee in the Peak District. Living with his Aunt Claire, 150 miles away from home, he is desperate for his sister, Rose, to join him for Christmas. At the last minute, she sends a message saying she’s unable to come so Col and his new friend Ruth set off on a dangerous journey with three magical guardians to reach Rose before London is destroyed. A brave knight, a loyal badger and the most beautiful, powerful tiger are unlikely travelling companions but they understand Col, in fact, were created by him many years before and know better than anyone what needs to be done to keep him safe. Along the way, their adventures and the challenges they face reveal incredible truths about the world we live in. The power of childhood imagination is ignited by a very special kind of magic that surpasses any evil in the world.
This is a timeless story, not just for December 1940 when it is set or even just for now – it is a story for any time when the world seems too dark, when there is less magic in the world than there once was. It is a story that lights a candle of hope and shows children how to conquer fear. It reassures them that they are always protected in a pocket of love and can achieve more than they ever possibly imagined. With charm, humour and a warm spirit, Col’s three guardians show him that heroes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and that there is nothing stronger than the power of love, family and friendship.
The rich symbolism in this story is powerful. The journey to London, each of Col’s guardians and the creatures they meet along the way represent far more than meets the eye and there is potential to delve deep into their meaning. The concepts of “dead of winter” and “dead of night” are matched with the Chanukah candles, Christmas, New Year and a celebration of light in dark times. The darkness, division and fear created by the evil Midwinter King thrive on the bleakness of the war. Sacrifice, determination and the power of the human spirit do everything they can to claim victory even in the darkest night.
In the classroom, this will be a valuable book for exploring the reality of life in Britain during the Blitz in December 1940. Ross Montgomery does not shy away from the description of the disasters so many families faced. From evacuees to despatch rider to emergency workers to ordinary families, the war hits hard. But this book takes readers to another level. The themes of loss, searching, and discovery are powerful for children and have so much potential for development. The use of various genres of writing with the story, such as newspaper articles and leaflets, model a wonderful “text within a text” style for children to emulate.
This book also has the potential to become a Christmas classic. With charming, loveable characters in the three Guardians, the magical scenes of Midwinter’s night and the on-going theme of light in the darkness, it will sit comfortably amongst other special holiday stories.
The Midnight Guardians is a story of teamwork, of everyone working together playing their part, but it also a story of the power of just one person. One person is important. One person can make a difference. It is a story of sanctuary – safe places and safe people. Special guardians and ancient places where magic still flows and protects in love. Thoughts of these things will stay with readers long after the story has ended.
Thank you to NetGalley and Walker Books for this incredible story which will be published in September 2020.
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