So I had only ever seen the movie, and the movie’s pretty crazy. Like you know the magical amulet, what’s this amulet and what does it have to do with animal testing? Nothing? Great. However, the book, is good, not crazy, and totally sensicle. No magic, just science.
I think the first thing I liked about this book is what a strong woman Mrs. Frisby is. She is intelligent, resourceful, and very brave. While we often see how scared Mrs. Frisby is, she constantly over comes and achieves amazing feats. Perhaps more importantly is Mrs. Frisby is a fierce single mama. She over comes all of her obstacles to protect her children and maintain their safety. With limited resources and unideal circumstances she facilitates a loving, caring, and happy family.
While I love cats, I am I librarian after all, I recognize that they can be very disruptive to the mico environments they live in: cats were animals that were brought to the Americas by Europeans who rapidly kill native animals. Early on in the book Mrs. Frisby comes upon a young crow named Jeremy (who has a much smaller part in the book then the movie) whose claw is caught in the fence surrounding the farm, putting herself at risk, she frees him. When Jeremy thanks her, she simply replies with “we all help one another against the cat.” Which is a sentiment that is repeated again and again by different native animals living around the farm. In fact Mrs. Frisby can talk to all the other animals in her surrounding environment, except the farmer’s cat. Without outright saying it O’Brien communicates that the cat is not only an enemy/predator but an outsider to their world.
Half way through the book Mrs. Frisby comes into contact with the rats of NIHM, and we learn their story. It turns out that they, along with some mice like late Mr. Frisby, were tested on in the NIMH laboratory, given drugs to advance their IQ and strengthen their bodies. So the rodents of NIHM can read and have longer then natural lives, so the rats created an underground city with electricity, elevators, and carpeted floors. However what’s interesting about this is that Mrs. Frisby has no problem keeping up with the rats, nobody talks down to her, and without hesitation they trust her with important and dangerous tasks. Also, she can read, not as well as the rats and her children, but quite competently none the less. Suggesting that all animals are capable of extraordinary things humans would never imagine.
The story of the rodents of NIMH is told by Nicodemus the unofficial leader of the rats. He also tells Mrs. Frisby about their plan for the future, “the plan.” They want to move to a far off uninhabited part of the forest and start their own town without relaying at all on humans. What I don’t like about the way this idea is framed is the very strong anti-stealing sentiment, they don’t wanna relay on humans because it’s stealing. Contextualizing stealing as always wrong is morality that I personally don’t subscribe to. Calling stealing always wrong often times oversimplifies reality, for instance rats needing to eat scraps left behind by humans, as our cities and suburbs have taken over their natural habitats, and destroyed their natural foods. However some of the thought behind the plan is quite exciting, Nicodemus wants to create a rat world completely outside of human society. Niccodemus talks about how in prehistoric times rats had very advanced and intricate cities, and suggests that a lot of things about human civilization are pretty undesirable, and really wants to see what rats could create independently. Which I thought was a very exciting idea to suggest to children.