Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

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Book Review

The strange rats keep to themselves, which is just fine for most of the animals around the barnyard. But when widowed mouse Mrs. Frisby needs to move her family away from the farmer’s plow, she realizes these strange animals might be just the friends she needs.

Plot Summary

As the spring sun thaws the frozen ground, Mrs. Frisby plans to move her family out of their cozy, winter home before the farmer comes to plow and plant. The recently widowed mouse and her children—Teresa, Martin, Cynthia and Timothy—look forward to plentiful food and long, warm days in their summer home by the brook.

However, before the family can move, Timothy gets sick. Mrs. Frisby rushes to visit her late husband’s friend, Mr. Ages. The wise old mouse gives Mrs. Frisby medicine and warns her that chilly, spring nights in the summer home would almost certainly result in Timothy’s death. He must stay in the home the mice made in a cinderblock in the farmer’s garden for an additional three weeks.

On her way home, Mrs. Frisby spots Jeremy, the crow, whose foot is tangled and tethered to a fence with a piece of shiny string. With the cat, Dragon, prowling the barnyard, helping Jeremy is risky. However, Mrs. Frisby quickly chews through the string and jumps onto his back. Jeremy leaps into the air, narrowly escaping the angry cat.

In exchange for her kindness, Jeremy takes Mrs. Frisby to the owl, the wise-but-scary predator who advises the birds. And once the owl hears that she is the widow of Jonathan Frisby, he gives Mrs. Frisby his advice: “You must go to the rats.”

Mrs. Frisby has never had anything to do with the rats, but she cautiously makes her way to their domain—in the center of the barnyard’s large rose bush. Once inside, Mrs. Frisby realizes that these are no ordinary rats.

The tunnels and rooms of the rats’ home are bizarrely lit with electric lights and furnished with carpet, just like in the human world. Something very, very strange is going on. But Mrs. Frisby realizes that, while the rats may be strange, she must seek their help if she hopes to save her son.

Christian Beliefs

None.

Other Belief Systems

Luck is mentioned several times. And evolution is referenced:

“Eventually the monkeys came out of the woods, walking on their hind legs, and took over the prairies and almost everything else. It was then that rats were driven to become scavengers and thieves, living on the fringes of a world run by men.”

Authority Roles

With her husband’s death, Mrs. Frisby is the lone parent of her kids. She is a good mother, taking risks for their well-being and ultimately putting them before all else. She does lie to them a bit after first meeting the rats; she’s not ready to tell them about her father’s connection to them just yet.

Mr. Ages and the owl dispense advice. Nicodemus is the leader of the rats, and he’s fair and honorable—even convincing the others that they need to eventually move away from the farm so they can learn to live without stealing.

Profanity & Violence

It’s mentioned that Dragon (the cat) killed Mrs. Frisby’s husband, Jonathan. People exterminating and dynamiting rats is mentioned. One character overhears a conversation about rats being electrocuted. A couple of rats die from gas that exterminators pump into their tunnels.

Sexual Content

None.

Discussion Topics

What do you do when you face problems?

Read Proverbs 12:15. Who do you ask for advice? How do you know if advice is good or bad?

Who is someone who makes sacrifices for you? How can you thank them for what they do?

The rats plan to live a harder life so that they won’t have to steal anymore. Why is doing the right thing hard sometimes? What can help you do what’s right even when it’s difficult?

Get free discussion questions for books at focusonthefamily.com/magazine/thriving-family-book-discussion-questions.

Additional Comments

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is an all-time classic. The adventure, characters and originality are sure to charm new readers as they have for the past 50 years.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Rachel Pfeiffer