Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a classic children’s story and the winner of the Newbery Medal. It was written by Robert C. O’Brien and tells the story of Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with 4 children and a big problem. Winter is drawing to a close and it’s almost Moving Day- the day when the mouse family moves to their summer home. But this year there is a problem. Little Timothy is sick and cannot be moved. And the plow is coming…

Some may remember the animated movie based on this book. I recently saw this in a bookstore and decided it was long overdue to give it a read. Good decision. The movie is good if a bit dark, but the book is better.

Mrs. Frisby goes to Mr. Ages, a wise old mouse, for help. Mr. Ages tells her Timothy has pneumonia and gives her a medicine to use but tells her Timothy cannot be moved for at least three weeks. When the farmer starts up his plow though and prepares to plant Mrs. Frisby knows she has a problem. She has at most a few days before the plow comes through and churns up her home. And Timothy will not be healthy enough to move in time…

Through a stroke of good fortune Mrs. Frisby meets the great owl, known for his wisdom. He sympathizes with her plight but tells her there is not much that can be done, until he asks her name. She answers and that changes everything. Her husbands name was known to the owl, and others besides, and he tells her there may be a way. She must go to the rats. The rats live under a great rosebush and are very mysterious, coming and going in great secrecy. They are more than they seem as she soon discovers.

As the story progresses we learn that the rats also have a great respect for her husband, and they agree to help her. However in order to do so there are obstacles to overcome... not least of which is the farmers cat Dragon. The rats periodically drug the cat with a sleeping powder so they can go about their business, but this time Mrs. Frisby is the only one who can slip the powder into Dragon’s bowl. Can she deliver the powder and make it out alive? And what secret are the rats hiding?

This is a fantastic story, wholesome and gripping at the same time. Mrs. Frisby is gentle and courageous, and the supporting cast are great. From Mr. Ages the wise old mouse, to the sad but mighty owl, to the intelligent rats, all the characters hit the right notes. As danger looms and time grows short, I found myself rooting for the brave and honorable rats.

There’s a gentle exploration  of the role of machines in our lives, and O’Brien explores how the rats have achieved a certain comfort level with their technology only to find that they are stealing more than ever, in this case electricity to run their machines and running water. This creates a moral dilemma for them, as they wish only to be self- sufficient, and we learn the extent of their plan to address this even as they take time to help Mrs. Frisby with her problem.

I cannot say enough good things about this book. It is well- written and tells a great story. Perfect for kids and not bad for adults either, it was thought- provoking enough to keep my interest. I’m glad I finally read it. Highly recommended and a classic.


  1. I must have read this book at least three times when I was a child!! One of my favorites. I agree, the movie does not do the book justice.

  2. I remember reading this book a few years ago! Although I like to review more recent books, I'm a sucker for Robert's great storytelling. Is this the one where they get cadged in some facility with scientists trying to experiment on them? (Got out through the air vents right?)