Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

I had never read Robert C. O'Brien's 1971 American children's classic, despite being exactly the right age for it. Partly I think this was because I had a certain preference for British books, and perhaps partly because I wasn't that keen on rats (I'm still not!). I also didn't realise that Mrs Frisby was a mouse (which might have put me off even further!)

I came across this while browsing Brotherhood Books and thought it was about time I gave it a go. It was a thoroughly charming story, though fairly slow to start, but the pace does pick up once the backstory of the super-smart rats begins. I was bothered by some niggles which probably wouldn't have troubled me as a child reader: like the fact that the rats are taught to read ie recognise letters and words, but it's assumed that they speak English and understand human concepts, and will be able to decipher instructions like 'take the left hand door.' I don't know why this irked me more than the fact that all the rodents, including ordinary Mrs Frisby, use tools and take medicine!

I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this much at the start, but by the end I was completely captured. It's an anthropomorphised animal adventure, not unlike 101 Dalmatians now I come to think of it, but less witty than Dodie Smith's book. It was sweet, and the ending is ambiguous, so you can read it as terribly tragic or pretty hopeful as you choose. If I'd read this when my girls were younger, I would definitely have tried it as a read-aloud. I think they would both have enjoyed it, and there are not many books that fall into that category.

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