Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, by Robert C. O’Brien, is an old children’s classic. I picked it up as a child, and never finished it for some reason or other – but the book has always stuck with me since, and every time I see it, I think, “I should pick that up again. it seemed like a really good book.”
It was. It was a great romp through nostalgic stomping ground, in a timeless children’s story. Mrs. Frisby is a mother mouse – a widow – with four children to care for. When Timothy, her youngest, contracts pneumonia, she realizes he’s too weak to move to their summer home. If they don’t move before the farmer plows up their field, however, anyone left behind will die. Even Timothy realizes he’ll probably die, and he seems remarkably mature about it. Mrs. Frisby enlists the help of a crow, an owl, and then a band of rather intelligent rats, who propose moving her cinderblock house to a location the plow will miss. In the process, she learns of the rats’ escape from a laboratory, forming of a secret society, and building of a civilized utopia. She also discovers her late husband’s involvement in all of this.
The book is a good read, but to be honest, I was a little disappointed. It’s a Newbery Medal winner – and, you know, maybe it really was the most distinguished contribution to young literature in 1972. But I just can’t help but compare it to the winners from other years. When I pick up a Newbery winner, I’ve come to expect the same kind of life-changing writing you find in The Giver or Out of the Dust. The Rats of Nimh is a good story, but it’s not going to change any lives.
If it weren’t for the medal on the front, I’d give it four stars. With the medal, I give it four stars, but also a shrug. It’s good, but I wouldn’t have nominated it for a medal. ♦