AND THE RATS OF NIMH
Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma.
Robert Leslie Conly (better known by his pen name, Robert C. O’Brien) was an American author and journalist for National Geographic Magazine. Conly was the third of five children from a wealthy Irish-Catholic family. With interests in music and literature, Conly entered Williams College in 1935 but left in his second year. He then went through a period that he referred to as his “breakdown”, briefly working in Albany, New York before going back to his family in disgrace. Although he later studied for a time at Juilliard, he went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of Rochester in 1940.
Then I shall begin.
As the clock ticked 6:30 in the White Swan pub in Leeds, The children sat in a circle, crossed legged and fingers to lips ready to hear the story of the field mouse and her struggle to survive just as a rogue dog joined the meeting disrupting the silence only to ask the question was Harry Potter a Mormon or is he an Aura?
Sometime last year this is the book that kicked off another addition to the big family we all know as Leeds Book club. It started with a tweet after a discussion with a fellow book clubber one evening at book club about how much I enjoyed this book and then the next day I noticed a feed discussing this and LBCPuffins was born.
Let me explain. A few years back I started reading kids books because I got so bored of adult fiction because it just had so much information in them that I felt a bit overwhelmed, that I switched to reading kids books for a short while. This is one in particular is one of the books I read at school and has always stayed with me. I think we did a project on it in English class but I can’t remember what. When I last visited my Mum’s I picked this up and it still didn’t disappoint.
A lot of it I had forgotten. I remember it was a fight for survival and that was it. The story is about a field mouse that has to overcome all sorts of obstacles to protect her family when it comes to ploughing day because her youngest son is ill and cannot move. She has to go seek help from an unlikely source, a group of rats. It is here where we find out about her husband and the need to escape the farm. I personally had forgotten about the rats and how they had become so intelligent and the conflict with Dragon the cat.
‘“The Rat Race”- which. I learned, means a race where no matter how fast you run, you don’t get anywhere. But there was nothing in the book about rats 7 I felt bad about the title because I thought, it wasn’t a rat race at all. It was a people race, and no sensible rat would ever do anything foolish’.
A part of me thinks it’s about self discovery and what we do to protect ourselves and others in what we tell them and do. At one point I did feel myself going ‘No Mrs Frisby don’t do that!’ and
because I couldn’t remember the ending. I was hoping the ending was not going to be sad. I think as a child you miss quite a lot of what is written in there, you’re just reading a story and not
looking for things and to reread it as an adult gives it a new perspective and also brings back fond memories.
‘All doors are hard to unlock until you have the key’
In the discussion at the White Swan while munching on white chocolate mice, we found that the book was perhaps trying to teach us a lot about solving problems and conflicts. Such as Mrs
Frisby stumbling across Jeremy the crow, on her way back from Mr Ages (the field mouse who is a doctor) with the potion for Timothy. He has his leg trapped and she feels torn because she needs to get back to her sick son, but can’t leave him injured. So she stops and helps him and in return takes her home and promises that if she ever needs help she just has to ask. It is later on that Jeremy says to Mrs Frisby at one point about why he is helping her, is because they maybe different but they all have the same enemies;
‘We all help one another against the cat’
(always prowling the farmyard)
This book tries to cover almost everything, from mice inventing x-ray machines, Owls not eating mice (what was that about?) to rats being able to read in a lab. Adventures i.e. the great escape.
How difficult it is to move a house let alone a home? One book clubber thought of the TV series ‘Location Location Location’ and Kirsty Allsop saying something like ‘Mrs Frisby has a dilemma
of huge mouse proportions. She must either find a new location or fear being crushed to death. Let’s look at her options. Phil it’s over to you’ or something like that.
‘Mrs Frisby could not quite get rid of the nagging worry that kept flickering in her mind; it was the kind of worry that if you push it out of this corner of your thoughts, pops up in that corner, and finally in the middle, where it has to be faced’
For some the book appeared to be old fashioned in some respects such as the female animals not being allowed in any of the meetings and then would look at role models. The males seemed to be the ones with the power even though our hero is a heroine. There is also a part where there was a role reversal I think between Timothy and Mrs Frisby when she starts acting like a child about moving day and not being mature and thinking like a child, thinking that the worse could happen, when the child believes everything will work out.
Although we all loved this book we did feel the ending let us down slightly it gave us an unnessary epilogue which didn’t let us know what happened to the rats, they simply just disappeared.
‘The room they entered was big, square, well lit, and had a faint misty smell. “It’s reasonably comfortable, and if you like to read….” he gestured at the walls. They were lined with shelves
from floor to ceiling, and on the shelves stood- Mrs Frisby dredged from her memory. “Books”, she said, they’re books” “yes” said Justin do you read much?” “Only a little,” said Mrs Frisby.
“My husband taught me”. –Mrs Frisby in the library.
There is a sequel to this book called ‘Racso And The Rats Of Nimh’ written by the author’s daughter and also a film. However the film has a few differences, it’s called the Secret of Nimh
made in 1982 and the names of the character has changed due to a possible copyright infringement with a certain toy and the mouse was know as Mrs Brisby. Not quite the same ring don’t you think?
Oh and one last thing, apparently animals can get pneumonia and NIMH is a real organisation, it is a part of the National Institutes of Health which is not revealed in the book. Although someone did mention if you add a letter it could be ‘Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Niamh’ a new title for book club perhaps?
And that my dears is the end of our story, always brush your teeth before you go to bed, and always remember book club is not just about the books you learn much more oh and it’s not just
is for Christmas, book club is for life.
Oh and if anyone is wondering about the state of the book I was reading I think my dog ate it.