Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Borrowers

The Borrowers

Mary Norton
Illustrator:  Beth Krush , Joe Krush 
Fiction  Series
For ages 8 to 12
Harcourt Children's Books, 2003   ISBN: 978-0152047375

Pod, Homily and their daughter Arrietty are the last borrower family left living in the old house. Being only a few inches high and very secretive little people, theirs is an odd and solitary little life spent for the most part under the floor boards of the kitchen. Homily and Pod are quite happy with their lot, but young Arrietty wants so much more. She hankers to be able to go outdoors, to be free, to see the sky and to breathe the fresh air.

It seems that this dream is very unlikely until life begins to change for the borrowers. First Pod is seen by a boy who is visiting the house. This is a very traumatic event for a borrower, because being seen can lead to all kinds of disasters. Who knows what will come of it after all? Then, on her very first borrowing expedition, Arrietty is not only seen by the boy but she actually talks to him.

It isn’t long before the boy and the borrowers develop a relationship. Lonely and fascinated by the little people, the boy brings the borrowers all sorts of treasures for their little home under the floor boards. Some of the things won’t be missed by the grown-ups in the house, but others soon are. It isn’t long before the housekeeper, Mrs. Driver, is on the warpath and the borrowers are in grave danger.

Mary Norton is a master of characterization. Pod, Homily and Arrietty are warm, vibrant little people with very real fears and loves. Arrietty is especially sympathetic, and we easily understand why she would want to leave the old house in search of a new life in the sunshine. At the same time we can see why the very idea of “emigrating” makes poor Homily hysterical. With beautiful descriptive passages and a gripping story, this timeless tale is a classic.

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