Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

By Robert C. O'Brien

Rating: 4 stars

This was a book that I’d loved as a child, and read several times, so it was with a little trepidation that I approached it as an adult, but my fears were mostly groundless. It’s been so long since I last read it that I couldn’t remember much of the plot, but the story of the widowed mouse Mrs Frisby and how she comes to associate with the rats that live in the farmer’s rosebush still holds up pretty well.

Reading as an adult in the 21st century, you do notice things: like how Mrs Frisby is the only major female character (yes, two of her children are girls, but they’re barely in it and their characterisations are limited to pretty much a single line: Teresa is the oldest and most responsible, Cynthia is the youngest and “over-fond of dancing”). The rats presumably have females amongst them, but other than Isabella, we never see any of them – they’re just described as “mothers” and it’s implied that they’re fond of the good things in life.

The story of the rats is still very exciting, though, from Nicodemus’ capture, to the experimentation in NIMH to their escape and finding the Toy Tinker. In between, we learn why the rats are willing to help Mrs Frisby in the first place and some of their philosophy. Personally, I’m leaning more towards Jenner’s side of the argument than Nicodemus – or, at least, I wouldn’t want to throw away everything and start completely from scratch.

Philosophical arguments notwithstanding, there’s a lot to enjoy here. It’s a story of kindness, of comradeship and of community. Recommended for children and adults alike.

Book details

ISBN: 9780141354927
Publisher: Puffin
Year of publication: 2014

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