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Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH Hardcover – March 1, 1971
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This unusual novel, winner of the Newbery Medal (among a host of other accolades) snags the reader on page one and reels in steadily all the way through to the exhilarating conclusion. Robert O'Brien has created a small but complete world in which a mother's concern for her son overpowers her fear of all her natural enemies and allows her to make some extraordinary discoveries along the way. O'Brien's incredible tale, along with Zena Bernstein's appealing ink drawings, ensures that readers will never again look at alley rats and field mice in the same way. (Ages 9 to 12) --Emilie Coulter
“Both the story and the tale within it are deftly told, fulfilling the first requisite of fantasy by making the impossible believable." -- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
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I was first introduced to this book almost 35 years ago. As a recently immigrated child having difficulties adjusting to the school, I got into a great deal of trouble for acting out in the classroom.
A kind teacher who saw my potential assigned the book to me during a parent-teacher conference. It made a huge impact on me -- it might seem like hyperbole, but this book may well have shaped my life. It instilled a great hunger for reading, and a love of learning.
Over the years, I had forgotten the details of the story, but not its broad outlines. Two of the (to me) central themes: engineering and self-sufficiency, sticks with me to this day.
I now have my own kids. I have been increasingly concerned that the older one had not yet developed a sufficient interest in reading. I tried to get them started on this book, but was initially met with indifference when I tried to read the opening chapter to them. My wife did not back me up on this at first, either.
But I persisted, and after a couple more tries, reading little by little at first before bedtime, I got the boys interested in the story. The real breakthrough came a few chapters in, when the boys begged to keep going. By the time we finished the book, they were fully absorbed into the book - there were nights when I (or my wife, who had also gotten into the book) were reading for nearly an hour! Some nights, we simply read it out to them. Other nights, the boys stayed up to read the words along with us.
They have now asked to have other long-form stories. I think the boys have now graduated from short 10-page picture books.
One of the best part of all this came this morning, about two weeks after we had finished the book. The boys aunt and cousins came over to visit, and the older one excitedly shared this book, reading it out to his aunt!
Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse with four young children living in a field. Her youngest son, Timothy is very ill and unfortunately it is time to move to summer quarters before Farmer Fitzgibbon starts to plow his fields. Mrs. Frisby seeks help amongst her neighbors and is told by a wise owl to get help from the Rats. When Mrs. Frisby meets the rats, she discovers far more about them and her late husband than she had ever imagined. Will they be able to save Timothy before the plow comes?
Daniel and I both greatly enjoyed the story as did Kile as well. We had to have a discussion about it after we all finished. I fell asleep one night and couldn’t read further so Daniel took the book and finished it himself that night, I had to catch up the next day to see how it ended! It was a great heroic tale of Mrs. Frisby and her love for her children, but the entire rats sequence was very intriguing. Daniel loved finding out where they came from, but was a bit stressed out about the more suspenseful parts of the novel. We still want to know who the mysterious two rats were in the end! I really liked the ambiguous ending and the questions of ethics and morality that permeated the story.
Overall, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a wonderful fantasy novel that will delight readers of all ages.
Book Source: The Kewaunee Pubic Library
My daughter saw the film before reading the book and found the text as intriguing as the film, within obvious limits, or
vice versa. She remarked that the plotline mirrors so many real-life human plights so often exploited by the media. I
compare it to "Animal Farm" and "Charlotte's Web" without the politico pathos. And, that the suppressed nobility of
creatures in any context often must be encouraged (aka - even reverting to subterfuge) to overcome adversity and
work toward a greater good and the collective benefit. Worth the time for child and adult. Indy