The Borrowers

by Mary Norton

Hardcover, 1991



Local notes

Fic Nor



Harcourt Childrens Books (J) (1991), Edition: 1st, 177 pages


Miniature people who live in an old country house by borrowing things from the humans are forced to emigrate from their home under the clock.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

177 p.; 8.25 x 0.75 inches


0152099913 / 9780152099916



User reviews

LibraryThing member writestuff
"And, under this clock, below the wainscot, there was a hole..." -From The Borrowers, page 8-

Enchanting and full of the unrestrained joy of a child's imagination, Mary Norton's award winning book The Borrowers ranks among my favorites of childhood. In this lovely 50th Anniversary Edition, Norton explains the process which led her to write the story.

Looking back, the idea seems to be part of an early fantasy in the life of a very short-sighted child, before i was known that she needed glasses. -From the Introduction of The Borrowers, page xv-

When one cannot see panoramas or stars in the vast sea of sky, it is natural to look more closely at the tiny details concealed within the shrubs or along creek beds, or beneath the floorboards hidden among the dust motes. And this was what Norton did as a child. Her splendid imagination created entire worlds...and later, just before war broke out in Europe, her mind returned to these little people of her childhood...and The Borrowers was born.

Norton's endearing story centers around the Clocks - a family of tiny people who live beneath the floor of an old English country home. Arrietty, the Clocks only daughter, longs to go with her father on his borrowing escapades in the big house. And one day, he takes her with him. But, the unimaginable and most frightening thing occurs. Arrietty is "seen" by a boy and life for the Clocks is never again quite the same. Told in accessible language which draws the reader in, The Borrowers is classic children's literature which will be enjoyed by "kids" of all ages.

Norton wrote an entire series of Borrowers books which continue to capture the adventures of the Clock family. As a child, I read them all - over and over again. If you have not experienced the joy of a Norton story, you are missing something wonderful.

The 50th Anniversary edition of The Borrowers (published in 2003 by Harcourt Inc) contains the original British illustrations, never before published in the United States, and is recommended as a beautiful edition for the library.

This book is highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member MerryMary
A fascinating look at a miniature world under the floorboards of an old English manor. The first of a classic series.
LibraryThing member KarenLeeField
I can easily believe that little people exist who ‘borrow’ things. How often have you put something down and a moment later it’s gone? And what about all those times when you’ve gone to retrieve something, and you know exactly where you put it, only to find it isn’t there? This happens to me all the time.

It’s not hard to imagine how a story like this could create a world of imagination and excitement for children—the age group the story was written for. I’m not a child but I found the story and the characters delightful.

I literally couldn’t put it down. I would tell myself, “just one more chapter,” but would read three more instead. I wanted to know what would happen next. I didn’t want to leave their world. I was enjoying it too much.

The book was first published in 1952, so the wording is a little old-fashioned, but that doesn’t distract from the reading. It enhances it to some degree. I’m not a lover of long descriptions but in this book the descriptions are different because they are showing us the uses of the items that have been borrowed and used by the Clock family. It’s brilliant. The author plants scenes in your mind and allows you to live the life of the borrowers. And I see this as a talent because children will want to keep reading, and isn’t that a good thing?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s recommended to all readers—young and old, and everyone in between.
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LibraryThing member ChrisRiesbeck
In my heavy book buying decades, I actively avoided best sellers and being a classic carried little weight. I bought a book either because it was by a favorite author, or because I liked the opening paragraph. This was one of those. "It was Mrs May who first told me about them. No, not me. How could it have been me -- a wild, untidy, self-willed little girl who stared with angry eyes and was said to crunch her teeth? Kate, she should have been called. Yes, that was it -- Kate. Not that the name matters much either way: she barely comes into the story."

That meta-opening hooked my into buying the boxed set, but then it took 40 years to get around to reading the rest of the book. My loss. This is a splendid children's book. A tale within a tale, as the author tells who Mrs May told "Kate" a story Mrs May heard from her brother. And that tale of the miniature Borrowers is surprisingly more science fiction than fantasy. There is no magic, no fairies. The Borrowers were small people who evolved to be even smaller to avoid capture. In their world view, humans exist to support them. But, as the child Borrower Arrietty learns from the child human, Borrowers may be a vanishing race. Dark stuff for a kids book. Even the ending is both very meta, a la The Princess Bride, and ambiguous.

I never try to evaluate how well a book might work for young readers, but as an adult, I loved it.
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LibraryThing member librisissimo
A cute book, and the characters of the Clock family are endearingly British.
Some children might have trouble with English customs, but then, 1953 is so long ago, they would have trouble with American ones also.

(My reading actually took only a couple of hours, but it was waiting-in-the-car time)

There have been several adaptations of The Borrowers in television and film. See especially the Studio Ghibli movie "Arrietty."
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LibraryThing member julieaduncan
It's not hard to imagine miniature people living in our houses. It explains so readily where everything disappears! The Borrowers introduces us to Pod, Homily, and Arrietty Clock, so named because they live underneath the grandfather clock in a Victorian English home. They borrow everything they have from the “human beans” that live above them. Borrowing is difficult work and one must be very careful as being seen could be extremely dangerous. What will happen when a little boy not just sees them, but actually becomes friends with the Clock's? Homily loves the new furniture from the dollhouse and life seems to be going well -- until a suspicious housekeeper begins noticing the missing items.

I have always been a fan of John Peterson's “Littles” books and this series is a great fit. The idea of a miniature world behind the walls of our house just fascinates me.

I would love to read this book and then expand on the idea of miniatures. First I would have the class as a group brainstorm common items that seem to disappear from our homes. Then I would divide them in groups. As a borrowers family, each group would need to choose where they might live in the house and discuss how that would define both their actions and their family name. Then they would need to choose one of the items from the list and decide how they could incorporate that into their home. This book could also be worked in with a study on Victorian England. There are probably a lot of uncommon words to children these days that they could look up to discover more about that period, such as overmantle, blotting paper, decanter, wainscot, crumpets, and button boots.
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LibraryThing member rakerman
This is another "children's book" that has fairly adult themes. Everyone in the book has strong and very human emotional motivations. I liked the ambiguous ending a lot - it makes a good self-contained tale. I don't think it needed any sequels.

It's interesting that this is a whole genre of fiction - small beings that live at the edges of the human world: Terry Pratchett has visited it with the Truckers/Diggers/Wings series and also with The Carpet People. The Wombles is another example. A more distantly related book is The True Meaning of Crumbfest.

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LibraryThing member t1bclasslibrary
This is the classic story of the Clock family- Arriety, Pod, and Homily, and their encounter with the boy. The boy brings them treasures, but leads to their discovery and near capture.
LibraryThing member TheMightyQuinn
A family of tiny people are the last of their kind left living under the floor of a nearly abandon country house where they are discovered by a little boy sent to the country to recover from an illness. This is a very charming story and one that has sparked a lot of further imaginative work. It may be becoming rather dated for today's young readers, however. Some of the attitudes toward children are different from today so their characters are developed very differently from today (in a way that might distance a child reader from the characters) and the narrator voice is very formal. The idea might be intriguing enough to persevere. Grades 4-8, both boys and girls.… (more)
LibraryThing member Olisia
A very imaginative and playful story. This book was really fun to read.
LibraryThing member DebbieMcCauley
When I was a small child I remember thinking that the machine that played music tapes had tiny people inside it who played the music on tiny instruments. This is not dissimilar from Mary Norton who envisioned a family of tiny people living under the floorboards of an old English country house. They consist of the father, Pod, the mother Homily and their thirteen-year-old daughter Arrietty who exist by ‘borrowing’ all sorts of things from the house above. I love the vivid descriptions of things such as postage stamps used as pictures on the walls. One night Pod returns from a borrowing trip with the dreadful news that he has been ‘seen’ by a boy. This leads to Arrietty befriending the boy before they are discovered by the housekeeper Mrs Driver. They then learn that ‘they are regarded as vermin by everyone in the house except the young boy’ (Kilpatrick & Wolfe, 1994, p. 215). A ferret and the rat-catchers terriers are brought in, along with poison gas and the borrowers situation becomes desperate, who will help them now? A really imaginative story that may make you wonder, just where do all the little things you lose end up?… (more)
LibraryThing member jcsoblonde
I have always loved The Borrowers, but finally I have been able to purchase a copy! Not the one as shown in this cover, but the one from Odyssey publishing. It is a beautiful book, and I have two others in the series; The Borrowers Afloat, and The Borrowers Avenged. Kids will love them!
LibraryThing member kwandler
This is a classic children's novel about little people (Borrowers) who live in the homes of Human Beans (humans) and "borrow" (steal) things from them to live. Arrietty is a 14 year old Borrower who is very adventurous in nature is constantly being to the Human Beans by her curious nature about them. She eventually meets a human boy and they become friends, while he brings her and her family gifts (often furniture from the nursery) while she reads to him. Arrietty is interested in finding out more about the other Borrowers of the world, and sends a letter to her Aunt, via the Boy. The Boy is send back to India where he came from in the end, but is able to rescue the Borrowers from his Aunt before he leaves.

This is an old and classic tale, and the first book in a series about the fun little creatures of The Borrowers. I read this book as a child and loved it, and have a younger cousin who is 8 years old and was telling me recently about a wonderful book she was reading (this one). I think it's great how some books can remain popular and loved by their readers after this many years! This book was originally written in 1952, so it has well out-stood the test of time!

Themes: Friendship, sharing, generosity, adventure, fantasy
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LibraryThing member ascott68
This Story by Mary Norton is about tiny people who live among normal sized humans, but are never seen. They "borrow" different things from the humans in order to live. In the story, Arrietty wanders outside the house where she meets the Boy. The two become friends, and he helps her accomplish things she can't do on her own because she is little.

This is a great book that demonstrates friendship, and accepting differences. Its also amazing to see how the borrowers use items from the big people's world and adapt them to work in their little world.

The students could write a story about something they discovered is missing from their own house that the borrowers might have taken, and how they may be using it.
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LibraryThing member tadashi
"BORROWERS" are very small people living in the human being's house.
They borrow many kind of things like ice-cream in the house in a second.
So, human being can't see them.
Oneday, they were discoverd from a little boy.
They talked each others and he (a little boy) talked about the problem in this house.
From that, they try to solve it.
I think it is easy for me to read fantasy stories than other kind of stories.
It is because we can imagine the scene freely.
So, I choose kind of stories many times when reading graded readers.
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LibraryThing member Zumbanista
I can't recall the plot details now, some 40 years later, but I have a very positive memory about this childhood read that has stayed with me. I found it intriguing and delightful. Didn't know it was a series, but would like to browse through the original and get reaquainted with the book.
LibraryThing member Ayling
I read this as a child after seeing the fabulous BBC series with Ian Holm as Pod.I think I read all of them after that - several times though I can't remember much about them any more. It's possibly worth more then 3 stars but because I can't remember them too well they will have to make do.
LibraryThing member flaguna
This is a thematic classic. I did not know that it was so old, despite that I had read another version previously in Spanish. The book is an adventure of fantasy and imagination. The next time that I wonder where my things are, I should consider the possibility that tiny beings are snaking around...
LibraryThing member kerry.wood
Very good story, filled my imagination and kept my curiosity. I would rate this as a Fantasy Fiction story.
LibraryThing member booo2893
-No Award
-This is my favorite book! I think their is a movie based on this. The borrowers is about little people borrowing things from bigger people in an old house. A boy noticed the borrowers and became friends with one of the little girls. They have tons of adventures and deals with a lot of struggles throughout the story
-I would do a lesson based on learning how borrow things from other people
-I would do a writing lesson based on having them write down things that they have borrowed from their parents without asking
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LibraryThing member lhanes
We all borrow. This book about a family of little people that live under to country home that live by borrowing from the family above teaches a lesson in resourcefulness. It tells of 2 families cohabitating yet one unaware of the other. The Borrowers simply use everyday items in place of things that youa dn I and other Big people take for granted.

In a classroom setting I would use this in a multitude of ways. I would start by taking a box of mixed items that you and I would normally toss in the trash and see how many different things my students could imagine the borrowers using these items for.
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LibraryThing member Esta1923
This endearing look at unseen co-inhabitors begins a series. It is clever and unusually believable considering that no, it really isn't true!
LibraryThing member mzserena
I enjoyed this story. I hadn't read this story when I was young, so it was nice. I picked it up after seeing the Disney previews for the Adventures of Arrietty. I'm not sure if I'll read the rest of the series, since it's such a juvenile series. There's nothing wrong with that, but I like stories that stimulate my brain and I wasn't stimulated. I fell asleep reading more often than not. I think it's age appropriate for the age group it was meant for, though.… (more)
LibraryThing member kristynzonsius
The Borrowers are a family that lives under the floor boards of a family home and borrows things from the family so that they can survive. The older lady named Mrs. May, tells Kate about the Borrowers. There are many obstacles that the Borrowers go through, throughout the story.
LibraryThing member mdonley
This is a classic children's novel about a family of tiny people, who live in the home under the floorboards of much bigger people. The little people “borrow" things from them in order to survive. Arrietty, is the teenage daughter of “Borrowers” Pod and Homily. Her parents are very protective of her and do not want her to leave their home. Pod has been “seen” by a human which is the worst thing that could happen. However they may be the only Borrower’s left and Arrietty realizes that she would be the last one if she did not venture out into the world. One day she is finally allowed to go borrow with her father. She immediately encounters a much larger person, a human “bean”, the Boy, and they become friends. He brings her family gifts from the doll house, and she reads to him. Arrietty learns that some relatives have moved out of the house and desperately wants to find out more about them so she sends a letter to her Aunt which the Boy delivers. Eventually the Borrower’s are found out by the lady of the house and chaos ensues. The Boy is able to rescue the Borrowers and is sent back to India where he is from. Arriety and her family move out of the house.
The descriptions of the things they use, such as stamps for art on the walls are so vivid. You can really picture them as the story unfolds. It is a very imaginative story which may answer the question-- where do all those things you “misplace” wind up?
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Other editions

The Borrowers by Mary Norton (Paperback)

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