Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien
Ages 6 & up

I loved this book when an elementary teacher of mine read it to me, and I recently had the joy of reading it to my younger two children. It is a wonderful story with adventure, suspense, nobility, courage and a strong family portrait. If you are not familiar with it, Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse who needs help moving her house before the plowing comes and destroys it with her sick son inside. She eventually obtains help from a group of rats who have attained high intelligence because they were experimented on by the National Institute of Mental Health. The story is greatly enhanced by the fact that as the story unfolds various interconnections are revealed producing “aha!” moments. It is a very clever story.

The book does presume evolution which shows up in a place or two, but it is not aggressive (I take such places as opportunity to discuss again what we believe). In addition to courage and caring for one another, one of the strong points of the book is the hearty affirmation of learning. After the rats have gained intelligence and are on their own the come to a house and discover its library.

“But the greatest treasure of all, for us, was in the study. This was a large rectangular room, with walnut paneling, a walnut desk, leather chairs, and walls lined to the ceiling with books. Thousands of books, about every subject you could think of. There were shelves of paperbacks; there were encyclopedias, histories, novels, philosophies, and textbooks of physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, and others, more than I can name. Luckily, there was even one of those small ladders-on-wheels they use in some libraries to get to the top shelves.

Well, we fell on those books with even more appetite than on the food. …

And all winter, far into the night, we read books and we practiced writing.”

Obviously Mr. O’Brien had seen nice libraries and had been taken with them. This is picture in my mind of a grand study. I want to give this passion for reading to my children and what better way than in the midst of a fun story with such a compelling portrait of the enjoyment of reading.

We enjoyed this book and commend it to you.

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