Title: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Author: Robert C. O'Brien
Have I Read it Before: yes
The Secret of NIMH was one of my favorite movies. As an adult this really surprises me because it is one of the darkest movies I can recall from my childhood. I distinctly remember hiding behind the couch when my dad would watch Star Wars because Darth Vader terrified me and yet the scene with the owl did not send me hiding? Maybe I was only afraid of live action. But all of this is beside the point. I loved this movie (still do) and loved the book the first time I read it. Oddly, as I re-read it now I found the movie to be one of the best adaptations I have ever seen because it does a great job of bringing the movie to the screen without major plot changes but at the same time amping up the tension and conflict (though for some reason they changed her name to Brisby. I am ignoring that fact as it makes no sense to me).
Mrs. Frisby is your ordinary mouse. She and her four children live part of the year on the Fitzgibbon's farm. When the weather turns warm, they will move to their summer home so that they will be safe from when planting season begins, but when her son, Timothy, gets sick, there is no way to move him without risking his life. She begins to seek help, first from Mr. Ages, an old friend of her deceased husband, an owl, and finally the mysterious rats that live in the rosebush. What she doesn't realize is that she is about to learn of a secret that is going to change her life forever.
I know I keep mentioning the film, but upon revisiting these characters, I am just blown away by how strong it is. The book is great, don't get me wrong, but the more I think about it, the more I am realizing that the movie does a better job telling the story. The book's main plot is Mrs. Frisby finding away to keep Timothy's illness from getting worse. There is a lot of moving from plot point to plot point but even when things should be tense, they come across almost casual and everything seems to fall into place easily. The movie, on the other hand, does a great job of showing Mrs. Frisby's fear and worries and scenes such as visiting the owl and other moments can actually cause some anxiety. I also felt that it did a much better job with the minor characters such as Jeremy the crow and Auntie Shrew (who is barely in the book at all, but has some of my favorite moments in the film). Since this is a children's book, I'm not judging it too harshly especially since I don't really want kids all stressed out by the book they are reading, I just found it to be more lighthearted than I remember, especially considered the subject matter.
I feel like this review is coming off a little more negative than I intended. This is a great book and see kids that are a fan of titles such as Charlotte's Web and The Cricket in Times Square enjoying it. I also suggest getting a copy of the movie as well (I have seen it many times in the cheap movie bins, a travesty for such a good film, but great for a family on a budget) and having a family night after kiddos have read the book. I also see that O'Brien's daughter, Jane Leslie Conly has written a few sequels as well and I must say I am intrigued and will probably be keeping an eye out at the used bookstore to see if I can find them. When that happens, I will do my best to read quickly and review.