Children's/Coming-of-Age, O'Brien, Robert C.

Review of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

Frisby2Mrs. Frisby finds herself in a pickle. Dr. Ages diagnosed her son Timothy with pneumonia, but Moving Day is just around the corner. No one had expected Moving Day to fall so early this year, but the ice has thawed, and Mr. Fitzgibbon will be plowing his fields soon. Out of desperation, Mrs. Frisby seeks the help of the wise owl.

In Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, danger is ever-present. Small animals must be alert at all times or they could be eaten by Mr. Fitzgibbon’s cat Dragon, trapped by human beings, or crushed by a plow. With Timothy sick in bed, Mrs. Frisby faces even more challenges. The fields are ripe for plowing, but there is still a chill in the air. What if Timothy fails to survive Moving Day?

Owl urges the widowed field mouse to consult a colony of rats. The rats of NIMH are highly intelligent creatures that live in a rosebush on the Fitzgibbon farm. Their lives are shrouded in mystery. Just that morning, Mrs. Frisby had seen the rats drag a piece of wiring across the ground and into the rosebush. Although the rats are unfriendly to strangers, owl is sure that Mrs. Frisby will get an audience with the leader Nicodemus. After all, she IS the widow of Jonathan Frisby.

­_ _ _

Robert C. O’Brien won the Newbery Medal for Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH in 1972. The novel is a cross between fantasy and science fiction. Animals and humans frequently cross each other’s paths, but only the most intelligent survive. O’Brien’s genius lies in his ability to bring the characters to life through simple yet fluid prose. Adult readers may find the rats’ story highly unlikely, but children (for whom this novel was written) are too immersed in the novel’s fantasy world to care. Each year, the Newbery Medal is awarded by the American Library Association to an author who has contributed the most to children’s literature. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was a great choice. It is an enjoyable read and easily accessible to children ages 6-12.


Favorite Quote

“All doors are hard to unlock until you have the key.”

This book counts toward the Newbery Medal Challenge



3 thoughts on “Review of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien”

  1. Nice review! I definitely feel this book deserved its Newbery.

    I remember the animated film adaptation The Secret of NIMH making me simply overwhelmed with emotions and tension when it came out (1982, when I was 11.) When I read the book later, I enjoyed the story more, as although there is danger in the book, it didn’t have the same level of intensity and dread to me as the film. (I don’t know if the film would still feel that way to me now, but the underlying themes would still strongly affect me, I’m certain.) It’s interesting to me that although most often it seems like when a book is adapted for the screen, especially a thought-provoking children’s or young adult title, the story gets watered-down, sanitized and/or sugar-coated. But in this case, unless my memory is failing me, it seems the intensity was ratcheted UP.

    1. I have not seen the film, but I plan to. I assumed that the film would be more sugary, but it is interesting that you found the movie more intense than the book. When I watched the film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are I felt the same way. The movie was scary and depressing. I had never cried so much during a movie. It was super pessimistic and disturbing. And I was an adult when I watched it!

      1. I have been thinking back on it, and the film also adds a mystical-ish wash to a level that I don’t recall being in the book. It reminds me a bit of Watership Down and The Last Unicorn – other kid’s film adaptations that I found very intense when I was young.

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