Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Robert C. O'Brien
Illustrator:  Zena Bernstein 
Fiction  Series
For ages 8 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 1986   ISBN: 978-0689710681

In the near future, Mrs. Frisby mouse and her four children will have to prepare themselves for Moving Day, the day when they will move out of their winter home in the cinder block, and into their summer quarters near the brook. The problem is that Timothy, the frailest of Mrs. Frisby’s children, has got a nasty case of pneumonia. Mr. Ages, the local mouse healer, tells Mrs. Frisby that on no account should Timothy be exposed to the cold, but if the family has to move out of the brick soon how can such a thing be avoided? Mrs. Frisby then overhears the farmer telling his son that he will be plowing the field, her field, in just a few days time. What is she to do? If she stays in the cinder block house she and her family will be killed by the farmer’s plow, and if she leaves Timothy could get worse and die.

Acting on the advice of a crow friend, Mrs. Frisby goes to see an old owl to ask him what she should do. He is turn suggests that she should take her problem to the rats who live under the rose bush. And so Mrs. Frisby goes to see the rats and what she finds when she get into their nest is quite amazing.

Not only can these rats read and write, but they have electricity and running water in their home. They have carpeting and other luxuries, and have learned how to build simple machines. Clearly these are not ordinary rats, and Mrs. Frisby is astonished to learn that her dear departed husband was good friends with these extraordinary animals. Why did he never tell her about the rats and his association with them?

In this 1972 Newbery Award winning title, Robert C. O’Brien tells a wonderful story that is not only entertaining and interesting, but that also explores what a civilization is and what its foundations should be. People who like animals my have a hard time with the fact that the rats in the story where experimented upon, but they can feel good about the fact that the animals were able to escape from their captors. Furthermore the rats were able to do something meaningful with the chance they were give.

Readers who enjoy this book might like to follow the continuing story about the rats of Nimh in the books written by Robert C. O’Brien’s daughter, Jane Leslie Conly.