Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

by Robert C. O'Brien

Other authorsZena Bernstein (Illustrator)
Paperback, 1986



Local notes

PB O'br




Aladdin (1986), 240 pages


Having no one to help her with her problems, a widowed mouse visits the rats whose former imprisonment in a laboratory made them wise and long lived.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

7.63 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member shabacus
I'm always hesitant before reviewing a book that is an acknowledged classic, like this one. I never read it as a child, never saw the movie, had only the vaguest notion of what it was about. Did I miss the critical period that so often crops up in children's literature? That is, has the childlike
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part of me that this book addresses already faded beyond its reach?


For the first time adult reader, I found clear and unadorned prose telling a story full of engaging and sympathetic characters. The dilemmas that the characters faced were mostly adult dilemmas, questions of freedom, taking care of one's family, the nature of morality, hate and prejudice. Unlike much juvenile fiction, the hero was not a child. This book elevates the mother to the level of hero, something that is all too often lacking in fiction where the parents are discarded or absent to allow the child protagonist to go adventuring.

My only complaint, and it is a minor one, is that so much more of this world could have been developed, but was not. I wanted more of the rats' world. I wanted to go with them on their journey. I believe that if this book had been written today, it probably would have become a long series, instead of a short, one shot novel and two follow-ups written by the author's daughter.

This is a book that I will not hesitate to give to my own children.
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LibraryThing member norabelle414
Mrs. Frisby is a recently-widowed mouse living on a human's farm with her 4 children. When one of her children gets sick, she must ask the colony of strange rats living nearby for help. She learns that they are superintelligent rats that escaped from someplace called "Nimh" and are trying to make a
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life for themselves.

I know this is an award-winning classic, but I was completely underwhelmed. There were innumerable errors in logic in the book, everything from Mrs. Frisby experiencing several summers and winters (mice live 1-2 years) and having 4 children of different ages (mice have litters) who also remember summer and winter (mice are full grown at 4 weeks) to problems with the overall philosophy of the book.

The rats are striving to live a life without stealing from humans, but that is entirely based on the premise that there's no such thing as rats that don't steal from humans, which just is not true. Nicodemus says "We discovered early on that in order to stop stealing we would, for awhile, have to steal more than ever," referring to taking seeds and equipment from the farmer so that they could take it into the forest to start their new life. Um, why? All kinds of animals live in the forest without stealing from humans. And if the rats really wanted to they could just cultivate the plants they find in the forest, there's no reason to take a bunch of oats and tools with them if they are so worried about stealing.

This anti-laziness (where laziness = stealing) philosophy is pushed hard. In particular, Nicodemus tells two stories to prove his point. The first is about a woman who is the first in her town to get a vacuum cleaner. All the other women are jealous that her floor is so clean so they get vacuum cleaners too. The demand for vacuums leads the vacuum company to build a factory in the town and the pollution expelled by the factory makes the air so dirty that the women can never vacuum their floors as clean as they were before they had vacuums. This story is vague enough that it doesn't matter if it's true or not, but what is the point of it? The second story is from a science book that Nicodemus read, which stated that rodents were once the most civilized animals on earth, but their lives were too easy and they got lazy and stopped progressing. Then monkeys, whose lives were tougher, came out of the trees and drove away the rodents and evolved into humans. This story just doesn't make any sense. Why would rodents lives be any easier than monkeys/humans? The anti-laziness philosophy seems to be much of the point of the book, when simply stating that the rats needed to move away from humans so that they wouldn't get caught by NIMH scientists would have been much more effective, and the plot would have been the same.

Mrs. Frisby doesn't seem any less smart than the rats, nor did she ever notice that she was significantly less smart than her husband. Most of what the rats know they learned from reading books, and Mrs. Frisby can read. She overhears several complex human conversations and has no trouble understanding any of them. What, exactly, is supposed to make the rats so special? Also, if the rats are so smart and read so many non-fiction books, including two sets of encyclopedias, how did they never find out what "NIMH" meant?

There's some sexism here as well. Jonathan Frisby was out planning and scheming with the rats every day and never told his wife he knew them, but we don't even know Mrs. Frisby's first name. She's only referred to as "Mrs. Frisby" and "Mrs. Jonathan Frisby", despite the fact that she's the main character. The book explicitly states that Mrs. Frisby's female children cry while her male children just "look sad". While it is mentioned that some of the NIMH rats are female, the only ones who have any action or have names are male.

If you enjoy books about small animals talking and acting like humans, you'd be much better off with A Cricket in Times Square, Redwall, Watership Down, or The Borrowers (technically tiny humans but same premise) which all make way more sense than this.
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LibraryThing member tben7672
Mrs.Frisby is in desprite need of help. Her son Timothey is ill with nimonia and can't leave his bed and moving day is at hand. If he is not moved, Mr. Frizibon's plow will surly kill him. After saving a crow named Jeremy from the monsteris cat Dragon, he offers to take her to the Great Owl who
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usually helps answer questions and problems. When she is at the owls hollow, she tells him of her delema, but he can't think of anyother way to save him but to carry him to the woods. Before broken hearted Mrs. Frisbey bids good day, she tells him her name and the owl is greatly supprised. The Owl tells her that he once knew her pasted away husband Mr. Frisbey, and that he has a new and better solution. She must go to the rats in the large rose bush and they will help move her house that is a brick to the lee of the stone. Mrs. Frisbey is confuised how rats can move her house,but she does as the owl said. Once she reaches the rose bush, she finds a door that is striped of thorns and enters into a glittering world of lights in every corner. Before she event entered the main part of the tunnel systeme, Brutice a gaurd rat blocks the entrance doesn't let her pass. Even when she used her name as the Owl had said, he had not reconized her improtance. She finally entered when Mr. Ages, an intelligent mouse who had help break Timothy's fever, directed Mrs. Frisbey once she told him of her quest. Another rat Justin, who was another gaurd, knew of Mr. Frisbey and told her of their constand supply of electricity that they stole and how they are going to stop because of the plan. She is also introduced to the very rat she was told to look for; Nicodemis, the leader of the rats. He told her the tale of how the rats here had become very intelligent. All the rats were taken from a market place and were taken to NIMH; the national institute of mental health. During their long stay, they were given daily injections and given mental tests. After a few years the rats that were given the injections lived way past their life spane and had learned to read thanks to the institute who had taught them how. Once the rats and the mice could do this they were thinking one thing, how to escape. Once their plan had been set, they all traveled through air shafts, but all but two mice Mr. Ages and Mr. Frisbey had ascaped alive. Because of Jonathin or Mr. Frisbey, the rats were able to ascape. After the rats and mice had stayed at a mansion and a toy tinker truck, the finally found their home which they are now planning to leave. Since they are no longer ordinary rats but intelligent beings, they need a purpase in this world and are planning to live a life without stealling and form their own civilization in thorn valley. Once the story is over Mrs. Frisbey volenteers to drug Dragon so that the moving of her house isn't disrupted. But once she puts the drug in his food bowl, Mrs. Frizabons son trapes her and puts her in a bird cage. During her capture, she learns that seven rats died in a hardware shop after trying to move a motor and NIMH was coming to destroy and capture the rats on the farm. Justin who saved her took her to her house and then the rats were able to move the stone to a safe area. Once the rats discovered what was to happen the next morning, they moved all their tecnical supplies to an under ground cave and made their home look like a regular rat tunnle. A few of the rats including Justine sayed behined and planed to use a secret ascape rout when the gas blew into the tunnel to make it look like it was in habited. Unfortunatley, two of the rats died trying to save the others and Mrs. Frisbey and her children knew that it might have been Justin.

This is one of my favorite books that I have ever read. I think I read it about 3 times since this i why I know the story so well. I wish I could have exlaind more, but this is a summary of cource :3. I'm not a bit supprised that this book won the new berry award since it's such a cool story. I am also supprised that some one would rate this book as 1,2, or 3 stars what are they thinking! Do they not understand the improtance of they book or did they miraly skipp through it. Now become of their rating, the book is 4 stars instead of 5, thanks alot D:
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LibraryThing member rolyat
i loved this book in my youth and had to reread, still love it!!
LibraryThing member jarlalex
NIMH, it turns out, is a real place... though their research primarily centres on mental maladies rather than smartnessation. Still, the fantastical idea that a group of rodents could have been granted human-level sentience is a fascinating concept that allows O'Brien to challenge what, exactly,
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makes us so "civilised" in the first place.
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LibraryThing member fingerpost
There are two tales in this book, one sandwiched in the middle of the other... a story within a story.
The story that begins and ends the book is that of Mrs. Frisby, a widowed field mouse, who has three children; one of them quite ill. She must move from her winter home in a farmer's garden before
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he plows his field, thereby destroying her home. However, if she moves her sick child while the weather is too cool, he is sure to die. With the help of a friendly crow and owl (An owl who is friendly to mice? Yes.) she is introduced to the Rats of NIMH. These rats live very near, and the birds are sure that the rats will not only know how to help her, but be glad to do so.
Then comes the story within the story. When Mrs. Frisby meets these rats, she finds that they have electricity, indoor plumbing, and many other unbelievable conveniences in their remarkably massive underground home. Nicodemus, the chief rat, tells her their story. In short, they were originally a group of 20 wild rats, caught and taken to a mysterious laboratory called NIMH, where they were given injections in an experiment that made them have much longer life spans, much stronger bodies, and most significantly; as smart as the humans who were holding them. After escaping the lab, they set up the civilized society they had here. They would be glad to aid Mrs. Frisby, because her deceased husband had been a dear friend, having escaped from NIMH with them.
Once that tale is told, we return to the rats figuring out how to save Mrs. Frisby, and the adventure surrounding that endeavor.
I found Mrs. Frisby's tale entertaining; but grew weary of the long story of the rats in the labortory and what happened to them after their escape. That center portion felt very much like the absolutely awful Newbery winner, "The Twenty-One Balloons"; a long, tedious tale of "why, aren't we the clever ones?" Although the crow, the owl, and Mrs. Frisby don't have electric lighting or use power tools, it is plain that they are about as smart as the rats are, but I suppose we're just not supposed to think about that.
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LibraryThing member Mialro
A mouse family, which includes the widowed Mrs. Frisby and her four children, must move from their house to a safe location, or they will be killed. However, her youngest son Timothy is too sick to be moved. The mysterious Rats of NIMH agree to help her, and she ends up helping them.
This great
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children's story reminded me of a cross between Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, Mary Norton's The Borrowers, and Richard Adams's Watership Down.
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LibraryThing member SumisBooks
A great childhood favorite. Mrs. Frisby has a horrible problem... she must move her family before the farmer plows the field and destroys their home. The problem is one of her children is deathly ill and cannot be moved. So she seeks out the Rats of NIMH for help.
Great writing and great story. Very
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different from the 1990s Don Bluth film. However in my personal opinion I like both. This is a fabulous little story no matter how you tell it. This is great for younger readers or for adults who wish to look back on their childhood.
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LibraryThing member ctpress
Mrs Frisby is a widowed field mouse, whose son Timothy has caught pneumonia and is too sick to leave there house which will soon be destroyed when the plough season arrives.

Her only hope is the mysterious rats from NIMH - they have all escaped from a research laboratory where they have been
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injected with some dna that has made them super intelligent.

This reminded me of the “realistic” anthropomorphism of Watership Down (although not so frightening). Well-written, charming and suspenseful and at places also quite funny.
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LibraryThing member messelti
A mouse seeks help from her neighbors to secure the safety of her family and in the process learns more about her neighbors, her family and herself than she could have imagined. Although some of O’Brien’s characters are a bit 2-dimensional (Jeremy the crow, for example, seems to exist simply to
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get Mrs. Frisby from point B to point C in her quest), the back story of the Rats of NIMH is rich with subtext and introduce to readers a whole new level on which the plot and characters can be understood, with a pacing that is much more appropriate than the overarching story of Mrs. Frisby. Indeed, the “present” setting of the tale leaves much to be desired, offering little by way of expressive details for second-tier characters or the farm on which this occurs. However, the struggles of Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH, be they the protection of those who matter most or the struggle for a better future really drive this story. Highly recommended for any intermediate fiction section.
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LibraryThing member bluecanoe
An amazing adventure story about the lengths one mouse will go to to save her family!

Mrs. Frisby's son, Jonathan is terribly ill, and can not be moved from his bed. However, moving day is coming (the day when all the animals move from the farm field to their summer homes, because the farmer will be
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ploughing the field soon)!

Through many adventures and near deaths, Mrs. Frisby meets a silly, accident-prone, but good natured crow named Jeremy, and becomes friends with the Rats of Nimh, who live in the farmyard rose bush.

The Rats of Nimh escaped many years ago from the animal experimentation lab called Nimh. The experiments performed on them gave them a unique intelligence - the ability to read and reason at a human level!

Can the Rats of Nimh help Mrs. Frisby save her son before Moving Day? Read the book and find out!!

A delightful story for children and adults!
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LibraryThing member bibliophile26
I had never read this Newbery medal winner although I’ve seen the animated version (The Secret of NIMH) many times. There were many plot differences. I liked that the book told more about the rats’ experiences at NIMH, but the movie had much more humor.
LibraryThing member goodnightmoon
An intriguing idea and a gentle story. Some philosophy, but not as much action as I expected.
LibraryThing member jeriannthacker
Sweet, interesting story. Mrs. Frisby relies on a group of super-intelligent rats to help her save her son.
LibraryThing member glanecia
This book will become a classic if it's not already a classic!
LibraryThing member S1BRNSUGAR
This book is about a brave mouse who is destined to save her ill son. She is told to go to the rats to help move her home. She encountered alot of obstacles and misleading information.
I think this is a really good book for children.

Students can write about how they would save the house and how
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they would have handled the situtations that arrived.
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LibraryThing member mrsarey
A classic young adult novel- the story of Mrs. Frisby and her attempt to save her home while her son is sick. A fascinating look at what life would be like for escaped lab rats and mice.
LibraryThing member marybetha
Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four children must move her family to their summer quarters immediately or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly
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intelligent creatures who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma.
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LibraryThing member qarae
My favorite book from childhood. I actually still have the same copy I read and re-read. The dark wonders of the rosebush, the bumble headedness of Jeremy, the suspense and terror of movie day added to the pressures of having a very sick son. Fantastic read for the young and young at heart.
LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
I quite enjoyed this Newberry Award winner - it was a curious mix of science fiction and cozy talking animal tale. Through it all, the comforting figure of Mrs. Frisby illustrates courage, love, and kindness. Mrs. Frisby's desire to care for her children drives her to do frightening things, and her
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innate kindness drives her to do things for others, even at her own peril. The rats of NIMH, on the other hand, are figures of wonder - smart, inventive, and the stuff of science fiction. I want to go read more about them!
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LibraryThing member beckyhill
Mrs. Frisby and her mouse family ask for help from some very intelligent rats, and learns about their history and also learns some things she did not know about her husband. The story of the rats and the adventures that they and Mrs. Frisby go through throughout the story and the story within the
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story make them all very interesting and likable characters. The theme of the story is that people can surprise you and help comes in the least likely of places. For an elementary crowd, the style is very fitting and the drawings throughout assist the text and the reader's imagination. I would include this book in my collection because it is an entertaining story and understandably a classic.
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LibraryThing member glanecia
This book will become a classic if it's not already.
LibraryThing member cmullenix
A widowed mouse has to to keep her family alive by herself. Her husband had been part of an experiment at a facility called NIMH, where he and some rats gained human intelligence. When one of her children gets deathly ill, Mrs. Frisby must reach out for help to her husbands old friends. It end up
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being a race against time for her and her family.
This story really helped to open up my imagination. I read for the first time when I was 10 years old. It started a love with science fiction books in general. I have read it several times since then.
This is a story that I would read together with the class. It really would emphasize story sequence and characterization. It could also be used to illustrate flashbacks and point of view. Reading and discussing as a group would be fun and engaging for the class.
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LibraryThing member elliotmccarthy
I thought that it was great. I remember when Mrs. Frisby met the big crow, where she flew over the farm. I was thinking of my friend Lucy's farm. This book was exciting because when Mrs. Frisby went out, the little kids didn't follow her. The cat Dragon is mean to the mice, too. I got a little
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nervous and a little scared when I read this, but a little happy, too! I liked where they lived underground and then when Mrs. Frisby went to find another home, I liked that the little kids didn't go with because they didn't want to get hurt.
--elliotmccarthy, age 5
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LibraryThing member pkonkol
I haven't even finished reading this book, but I love it so much I had to add it to my library. Ever since I've been a child, I've been fascinated with the behind-the-scenes lives of the creatures we take for granted: mice, fish, birds, etc... Robert C. O'Brien has done a masterful job of creating
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this hidden world and adding to it intrigue, suspense, and wonderful characters. Everyone, especially animal lovers, needs to pick up this book and give it a shot.
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