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Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert…

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (1971)

by Robert C. O'Brien

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Rats of NIMH (1)

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6,620119570 (4.19)1 / 172

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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.
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
Mrs. Frisby is a recently-widowed mouse living on a human's farm with her 4 children. When one of her children gets sick, she must ask the colony of strange rats living nearby for help. She learns that they are superintelligent rats that escaped from someplace called "Nimh" and are trying to make a life for themselves.

I know this is an award-winning classic, but I was completely underwhelmed. There were innumerable errors in logic in the book, everything from Mrs. Frisby experiencing several summers and winters (mice live 1-2 years) and having 4 children of different ages (mice have litters) who also remember summer and winter (mice are full grown at 4 weeks) to problems with the overall philosophy of the book.

The rats are striving to live a life without stealing from humans, but that is entirely based on the premise that there's no such thing as rats that don't steal from humans, which just is not true. Nicodemus says "We discovered early on that in order to stop stealing we would, for awhile, have to steal more than ever," referring to taking seeds and equipment from the farmer so that they could take it into the forest to start their new life. Um, why? All kinds of animals live in the forest without stealing from humans. And if the rats really wanted to they could just cultivate the plants they find in the forest, there's no reason to take a bunch of oats and tools with them if they are so worried about stealing.

This anti-laziness (where laziness = stealing) philosophy is pushed hard. In particular, Nicodemus tells two stories to prove his point. The first is about a woman who is the first in her town to get a vacuum cleaner. All the other women are jealous that her floor is so clean so they get vacuum cleaners too. The demand for vacuums leads the vacuum company to build a factory in the town and the pollution expelled by the factory makes the air so dirty that the women can never vacuum their floors as clean as they were before they had vacuums. This story is vague enough that it doesn't matter if it's true or not, but what is the point of it? The second story is from a science book that Nicodemus read, which stated that rodents were once the most civilized animals on earth, but their lives were too easy and they got lazy and stopped progressing. Then monkeys, whose lives were tougher, came out of the trees and drove away the rodents and evolved into humans. This story just doesn't make any sense. Why would rodents lives be any easier than monkeys/humans? The anti-laziness philosophy seems to be much of the point of the book, when simply stating that the rats needed to move away from humans so that they wouldn't get caught by NIMH scientists would have been much more effective, and the plot would have been the same.

Mrs. Frisby doesn't seem any less smart than the rats, nor did she ever notice that she was significantly less smart than her husband. Most of what the rats know they learned from reading books, and Mrs. Frisby can read. She overhears several complex human conversations and has no trouble understanding any of them. What, exactly, is supposed to make the rats so special? Also, if the rats are so smart and read so many non-fiction books, including two sets of encyclopedias, how did they never find out what "NIMH" meant?

There's some sexism here as well. Jonathan Frisby was out planning and scheming with the rats every day and never told his wife he knew them, but we don't even know Mrs. Frisby's first name. She's only referred to as "Mrs. Frisby" and "Mrs. Jonathan Frisby", despite the fact that she's the main character. The book explicitly states that Mrs. Frisby's female children cry while her male children just "look sad". While it is mentioned that some of the NIMH rats are female, the only ones who have any action or have names are male.

If you enjoy books about small animals talking and acting like humans, you'd be much better off with A Cricket in Times Square, Redwall, Watership Down, or The Borrowers (technically tiny humans but same premise) which all make way more sense than this. ( )
1 vote norabelle414 | Jul 29, 2017 |
Piper Sturgis
Rats of Nimh Book Review
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

“Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh” is an interesting story that has many plot twists and chapters that will keep you on the edge of your seat, flipping page after page. It is a touching and sweet story that shows how far a widowed mother will go to keep her children safe. The story is based around a mother whose youngest son is ill with pneumonia. But sadly, it is moving season for all the field mice on the farm. In just a couple of days the tractor will plow the field and the mice are forced to move to their summer home. From then on the story begins and the adventures are started.
  MackintoshL | Jul 7, 2017 |
It's a bit more bland than its film adaptation would lead you to believe, but O'Brien's tale of genetically-altered rodents still presents a level of sweetness and sophistication that would impress most young readers. ( )
  Birdo82 | Jun 14, 2017 |
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is about a widowed field mouse, Mrs. Frisby, and her four children. During the winter, they lived in the vegetable garden of a farmer named Mr. Fitzgibbon. Everything was fine until Mrs. Frisby's youngest son, Timothy, became sick. Mrs. Frisby started on a journey to see Mr. Ages, a wise old mouse who had helped them before when Timothy had been bitten by a spider. This is where Mrs. Frisby's adventure begins. She would meet new friends and uncover they mystery of her husband's death, as well as his connection to the mysterious rats of NIMH.

The book was very entertaining. It was filled with mystery and suspense. I couldn't put it down! I read straight through this book! I would recommend this book to middle school students because it deals with illness and death, loyalty and trust, overcoming adversity, character versus character, and character versus nature. I really related to Mrs. Frisby's fear of losing a loved one because I have a sister with intractable epilepsy.

Classroom extensions:
Language Arts:
Themes: The concept of themes can be taught, such as farms and farming, using laboratory animals for medical testing, rats and mice, adversity and perseverance, etc...
Vocabulary: Identifying alliteration, foreshadowing, personification, similes, and cliffhangers
Plot Activities: Student can complete a time line of events from the story ( )
  joaplant | Mar 21, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert C. O'Brienprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bernstein, ZenaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gazi, Edward S.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
To Catherine Fitzpatrick
First words
Mrs. Frisby, the head of a family of field mice, lived in an underground house in the vegetable garden of a farmer named Mr. Fitzgibbon.
It was this, of course, that made our life so easy that it seemed pointless. We did not have enough work to do because a thief's life is always based on somebody else's work.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, also published as: The Secret of NIMH. Do not combine with the film The Secret of NIMH.
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
AR 5.1, Pts 8.0
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0689710682, Paperback)

There's something very strange about the rats living under the rosebush at the Fitzgibbon farm. But Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with a sick child, is in dire straits and must turn to these exceptional creatures for assistance. Soon she finds herself flying on the back of a crow, slipping sleeping powder into a ferocious cat's dinner dish, and helping 108 brilliant, laboratory-enhanced rats escape to a utopian civilization of their own design, no longer to live "on the edge of somebody else's, like fleas on a dog's back."

This unusual novel, winner of the Newbery Medal (among a host of other accolades) snags the reader on page one and reels in steadily all the way through to the exhilarating conclusion. Robert O'Brien has created a small but complete world in which a mother's concern for her son overpowers her fear of all her natural enemies and allows her to make some extraordinary discoveries along the way. O'Brien's incredible tale, along with Zena Bernstein's appealing ink drawings, ensures that readers will never again look at alley rats and field mice in the same way. (Ages 9 to 12) --Emilie Coulter

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:14 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Having no one to help her with her problems, a widowed mouse visits the rats whose former imprisonment in a laboratory made them wise and long lived.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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