Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O'Brien (Family Read Aloud)

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMHMrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


We read this as a family over the past several months.  All of us enjoyed it pretty well. 

We found a lot to discuss in this book: stealing, learning, dangers, friendships, service to others.  We had some long after-dinner discussions. It was exciting that after all these years of dinner time read alouds and modeling how to interact with books to see our eldest daughter (9yo) make allusions and draw ideas together from the reading. She asked some good questions. Not all the time, but from time to time.

There's a review on Amazon that treats the rats as totalitarian/fascist, and I'm not sure I agree with that.  I like the review very much, but I think the Rats of NIMH show an extreme, self-centered independence. 

Rather than considering how they could serve others, they were so focused on their own plans and desires that they walled themselves off into their own world and could not love rightly. With all their intelligence and learning, they could not see the interdependence they had on others - Mr. Ages, Mr. Frisby, the Bonifaces, the Fitzgibbons, even the old owl.  And without seeing the interdependence, they offered no support until asked.  No thought.

I was intrigued that they considered following the ideas of the early European monastery to remove themselves from the world.  The monasteries, yes, were a haven, but a haven for learning and service to the community.  Their separation wasn't as extreme as the Rats intended.

I also wonder about future generations of Rats.  They are going to leave almost everything behind - including their books and tools.  Yes, working is good and having real work is important, but standing on the shoulders of our ancestors and their learning and ideas is an important part of advancing civilization.  They learned that the prairie dog civilization stopped growing and advancing, they claimed to be interested in and learn from history, yet Nicodemus and the Rats leave behind all that they could teach from and build from for the coming generations.  Why?

As a Christian, I read this and wonder about how I love others.  Do I only serve when asked, or do I seek out needs and offer help and aid.  Do I love my American Individualism more than I love God and love others? Some ideas to consider out of this worthwhile book.

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  1. We read this last year and enjoyed it, but it was a little hard for me to read aloud because of all the symbolism, etc., that it seems to hold. Interesting.

    1. The more I think about it, the more I think about it IYKWIM. My husband does a lot of the reading - he has a great voice and does voices. Love that man.

  2. What age do you think is good to start reading this? 3rd grade, maybe?

    1. I think 3rd is probably good. My kids are 7, 8, & 9. The 9yo probably did the best with it, as you might imagine. I think we read it in 4th when I was a kid. It definitely requires discussion to get depth out of it, otherwise it seems a nice animal story.

  3. I've often wondered about this book. Thanks for reviewing it.

    1. I hope you enjoy it if you try it.


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