Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mrs Frisby and the rats of NIMH by Robert C O'Brien

Quite by accident I seem to be reading Newberry Winners at the moment. The real reason these books are bubbling to the top of my huge reading pile is that in early December we did a huge cull of our school library shelves – this is called weeding. We weeded out over 1400 old fiction books. A few of the titles we removed are important books like the one I am about to discuss Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH so we will of course purchase new copies. The sad thing about paperback books is the way, over time, the pages discolor. The other sad thing is that quite a few of the books we need to replace are long out of print. Luckily this is not true for Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

I know I must have read Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH sometime long ago (it was first published in 1971) but I really had only a very scant memory of the plot and so it has been a delight to sit down today and read the whole book in one sitting.

Timothy, the youngest child of Mrs Frisby and her late husband Jonathan, is very ill and while Mrs Frisby has been able to obtain some medicine from Mr Ages he has also warned her that Timothy must stay in bed for many weeks to recuperate and that it is vital he stay warm inside their home. Unfortunately our family of mice live under a field that is due to be ploughed any day now as Spring has just begun. Normally the family would move to their Summer residence but this seems impossible when Timothy is so ill. When Mrs Frisby returns from her visit to Mr Ages she stops to help a young crow that is caught in a fence. This simple act of kindness means Jeremy, the crow, promises to repay the favor. He suggests Mrs Frisby should ask the local owl, considered a very wise animal, about the dilemma of moving. As Mrs Fribsy says “All doors are hard to unlock until you have the key.”

The key is this case involves requesting assistance from a group of rats who live under a thorny rose bush near the farm house. All travel around the farm is made more treacherous by the presence of the farm cat, aptly named Dragon. Mrs Frisby is determined to save her family and so, on the advice of the owl, she visits the rats. It is here that she discovers the true identity of these remarkable rats, their connection to her husband and her role in the saving of more than one life.

We do have the two sequels to this book in our school library which were written by Robert C O’Brien's daughter but right now I am content to leave the ending to my own imagination.

After reading Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH I have many suggestions for where to go next :

  • If you love mice, rats and other small creatures you should read the Redwall series by Brain Jacques, The cricket in Times Square by George Selden or for younger readers take a look at Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn.

  • If you would like some terrific books to read aloud to the whole family look at The Gerander trilogy by Frances Watts

  • If you are interested in science experiments involving animals and the moral dilemma associated with this practice take a look at A Pig called Francis Bacon by Stephen Measday and the two sequels.

  • If you like the way the rats and mice outwit the farmer then pick up Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl or Charlotte’s web by EB White.

  • If you love rats then read A rat’s tale by Tom Seidler.

  • If you love owls read Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky.

  • If you want to continue the theme of kindness towards others you should read The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz.

I was amazed when I put "Mrs Frisby" into Google to see nearly 2,000,000 hits. There is a wealth of material out there if you want to use this book with a class. Here are two examples. There is also a animated movie but the small part I previewed seemed to be a poor interpretation of an important book.

No comments: