Sunday, November 8, 2009

Review: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Summary: Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, is faced with a terrible problem. She must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. And Mrs. Frisby in turn renders them a great service. -- Alladin

This month, our Mother-Daughter book club read MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien. This novel won the 1972 Newbery Medal for "the most distinguished American children's book published the previous year." I remembered reading this book as a child and not particularly loving it, but I was anxious to re-read the book with my adult point of view.

I actually did enjoy MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH much more as and adult; however, I still don't know if I absolutely loved it. I really liked the novel and I definitely appreciated it, but I don't think I'll be saying that this is one of my all-time favorite middle grade books. I think part of the reason for this is that that I'm not a huge fantasy reader, and I'm not usually crazy about books where animals talk and live like humans. Having said that, I can see why this book won the Newbery Medal. Mr. O'Brien wrote a wonderful piece of literature that is just so complex and multi-layered.

As a mother, I have to say that I absolutely loved the character of Mrs. Frisby. She epitomized everything a mother should be! Mrs. Frisby was a widowed mom with four young children, and she was literally just trying to keep herself and her kids alive. I was so touched by her bravery and how she sacrificed for her family. When she realizes that she has to relocate because of the farmer's plow and that her son is too sick to be moved, she risks her life to get advice and then help for her family. I also loved how she managed to keep her wits about herself when she meets with the owl and rats. She did what she had to do! Even when she discover secrets about her husband, rather than resent him she just realizes that it explains so much of what she never understood.

Another thing I really liked about MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH is how the society of rats existed. I found that so many of the rats' actions and behaviors reminded me of how humans live. Not only were the rats extremely intelligent, but they also have lights, elevators and libraries. In addition, they had the same feelings of honor and loyalty that people do. I especially loved how the rats wanted to help Mrs. Frisby out of a sense of loyalty to her husband, and I thought it was wonderful when she was able to reciprocate the favor. Another thing I found interesting that the rats also experienced dissension from some members of their society. I thought the book showed a very interesting perspective on societies as a whole.

In some ways, I can see how adults will actually appreciate MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH more than children. Don't get me wrong, I think many kids will love the animal and fantasy parts of this novel; however, I think so many of the deeper themes will be lost on children (or maybe they will just need a little guidance to see them.) I guess that's why it might be an ideal book for both the mothers and daughters to discuss together.

I'm not sure that all of the girls in our Mother-Daughter book club are going to love this book, but I am hoping that they appreciated it enough to make our discussion later today interesting. This book really has so much to talk about, and I know I'm a little bit overwhelmed just thinking about what all there is to discuss. (I have to keep in mind that they are just 9 and 10 year olds, and I don't think their attention spans will last more than 45 minutes or so.) I'm just hoping that we can delve into some of the major themes a little deeper.

I was so impressed with how the author accomplished in this novel. It really is a book that will make you think regardless of your age. I realize that we can't possibly discuss all of themes this afternoon, but some of the topics I'd like to see us further discuss include testing on animals, motherly love, friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, secrets, independence, and working together. Since there are so many topics for further discussion, it's not surprising that there are discussion questions and reader guides all over the internet. I like that many of the guides divided up the questions by groups of chapters. I actually think reading and discussing this book in chunks is probably the most effective way to analyze the story!

It took Booking Daughter quite awhile to really get into this book -- she isn't one for books about animals and especially talking animals! I think she eventually came around a little:

I had a hard time getting into the book because I don't really like books about animals, but I kept telling myself that someone loved it because it won an award. I ended up the book was okay. It's not one of those books that I would read over and over again.

I didn't really like the beginning (and neither did some of my friends) because I thought it was slow and didn't have enough action. I think a big part of the book was when Nicodemus explained the rats' story, and I thought it could have been a little bit shorter -- I was losing interest.

I liked the part where the rats helped Mrs. Frisby by moving her house. I thought it was very cool how they worked together to accomplish their goal. I also thought it was cute how one of the girl rats was "crushing" on Justin.

One part that made me upset was when that the scientists were doing the tests on the rats and mice. I don't think animals should suffer, and I'm glad they were able to escape.

I admit that I am very curious to hear the girls' (and their mothers') thoughts about this book. I have a feeling that I might be surprised with how much the girls "took away" from this story.


The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

I LOVED that book when I was little. :) And the movie!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This looks so cute, and your review definitely made me want to read it!

Jennifer said...

As a small child, this book was my absolute favourite.

Bleuette said...

I loved the book and the moive when I was a kid. I don't really read alot of books with animals for characters but this book was wonderful.

bermudaonion said...

It's been a long time since I read this book, so I don't remember too much about it, but I remember liking it a lot - maybe because of the animals.

S. Krishna said...

This was one of my favorite books as a kid, along with the sequels!