Author: Robert C. O’Brien

Year: 1971

The Rats of NIMH is a beloved book from my childhood, one that I have made sure to pass down to my children.  Its simple story and wonderful characters are just perfect for kids, and I enjoyed reading it aloud, so I can attest that it also isn’t too childish for adults. How many books can boast the same; that they hold up over the decades, can be enjoyed by all ages, and leave such a lasting impression in the hearts of their audience?  NIMH is a very special classic, and I know I have a weakness for books about animals (Watership Down, Where the Red Fern Grows), but I can’t imagine anyone taking the short time to enjoy this world and walking away without a smile on their face.

Mrs. Frisby needs to move her family into their summer home, because Mr. Fitzgibbon’s plow is coming, and their cinder block house in the garden won’t survive such a thrashing.  The Frisbys are mice, and they live in the farmer’s field during the winter, moving into a lovely hole by the brook when the weather warms.  But this time, they can’t move now that the time has come, because their frailest member, Timothy, is sick again, and can’t go out of doors in the chill or he might die.  Mrs. Frisby, unsure of what to do and missing her late husband ever so much, seeks advice from a wise, old owl, who tells her to go to the rats in the rose bush. These rats know things that other animals do not, are advanced in a way that defies nature, and their story is one that Mrs. Frisby needs to hear, both because it might save her son and because it concerns the death of his father.

This book is so simple, so lively, so clean, and I could read it a hundred times.  You instantly fall in love with Mrs. Frisby and her tenacity, desperately wishing that all her adventures come complete with happy endings.  And she meets so many interesting animals on her way toward the truth about the rats: Jeremy the crow, the ancient owl, Justin the captain of the guard, Nicodemus the leader, Mr. Ages the healer.  Half of the book is set in real time, half is an explanation of how things came to be, and it’s this combination that makes this story so wonderfully interesting.  Kids will follow along breathless, adults will appreciate the deeper themes, and The Rats of NIMH will stay with you long after you put it down.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆