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

A glorious story of heroism in which a mother’s deep love for her children shines brightly.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. Aladdin, 1986. 240 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, 10-12

Recommended For: Ages 10-12

There are many famous mothers in literature: Mrs. Alcott, Mrs. Bennett, Mrs. Weasley, Ma Ingalls, and others. My favorite happens to be the tender, courageous Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with an ordinary concern for feeding her children and finding a way to move them out of danger’s path from their winter home into a safe place for spring.

But her youngest son, Timothy, is too ill to be moved before the farmer comes with his plow, and he will die if they try to leave too soon.

Her courage shines through her fear as she seeks help first from Mr. Ages, a wise mouse who was a friend of her late husband, and then an owl (!) through the help of a crow named Jeremy. Curiously, her identity as Mrs. Jonathan Frisby proves a badge of honor that leads to the mysterious rats who live under the rose bush on Mr. Fitzgibbon’s farm and to further bravery on behalf of her children.

But why was her husband so important? What is the secret of the rats of NIMH? How can they possibly move her cinder block home and save her family?

I remember watching the animated movie The Secret of NIMH when I was a child, but had no idea how much better the book could be (don’t bother with the movie). It’s a gorgeous read-aloud with the variation on the theme of a damsel in distress who has no idea of her noble connections, and a model of glorious romantic heroism. The audiobook is a lovely option.

O’Brien drew his story from his visit to the “mouse utopias” at the National Institute of Mental Health in the 1960’s, an experiment in creating a paradise that was never successful. What might happen to the rats if they had superior intelligence and opportunity to create their own utopia?

This is a story to delight in that might lead to interesting discussions…or just admiration for the nobility of a mother’s heart. A fabulous read aloud.

Overall Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Worldview/Moral Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Literary/Artistic Rating: 5 out of 5

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Related Reading From Redeemed Reader:

A Review: Watership Down by Richard Adams (another talking animals story that is rich and meaty)

A Resource: Browse more Retro Reads

A Resource: More stories about mice! Here’s a booklist for you.

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