1972: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (secret origin of the super rat)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 4/5

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a fun tale about a lady mouse and some gentleman rats banding together in a race to move a mouse den to a safer area before the spring plowing destroys Mrs. Frisby’s sickly child. On her journey to save her family, Mrs. Frisby discovers the origins of the secretive Rats of NIMH and her late husband’s involvement in their mysterious past.

Most of the story follows Mrs. Frisby as she tries to save her family and meets new friends, including a foolish crow, a wise owl and some intelligent rats with high morals. All of the animal characters had bright and contrasting personalities; even though there were so many rats, it was easy to keep their characters straight and follow the action.

That being said, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH felt overly long, and oftentimes I felt like there was a bit too much exposition that could have been cut out in the editing process. The middle section went on too long, which made this book feel like it is longer than it really is – particularly the flashback of how the rats escaped from the scientists. I felt this portion could easily have been cut down a bit since I was anxious to get back to the main action, but it was interesting to read about the rats growing smarter and more clever as a result of the scientific experiments.

Several times throughout the novel, it’s theoretically pointed out that rats could have built a civilization similar to humanity if they hadn’t been so lazy and relied on stealing food instead of creating a society that could sustain them. The rats try to rise about their negative stereotype to prove the world wrong. The commentary on human civilization allowed the story to rise above a simple adventure tale as it makes some interesting points that are still valid in society today. In fact, the civilization created by the Rats of NIMH was the best part of the novel. Their creative use of electricity and other human appliances is quite clever and sparks the imagination.

I’m glad this story held up as well when reading it as an adult as it did as a child. With its focus on anthropomorphic animals and their adventures, it has several similarities to the Redwall series while also drawing a lighter comparison to Watership Down. I’d recommend Robert O’Brien’s Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH to any child who likes animal adventure books.

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