Let me start by saying: 'do not judge this book by its cover!' (or the movie if you happen to have seen it) Another thing is that even if you aren't particularly fond of rats, mice or maybe even wildlife in general, persevere. This book is well worth it. In his novel, O'Brian deals with issues extremely relevant to us in our modern day society, for example; discrimination and animal testing, to name just a couple. All of the characters in this book fight injustice and work to have more power and control over their own lives. Mrs Frisby particularly, although tiny, believes that she has a right to raise her family in safety and security. Sure the main characters in this book are mice and rats, but what they want is to have a voice in their own lives and destinies.
'The Rats of Nimh' has various different titles including 'Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh' and 'The Secret of Nimh,' it's original title. I have read this book multiple times and have yet to get tired of the Frisbys and the rats. The novel tells two stories at once: the story of widowed Mrs. Frisby and her struggles to protect her family, and the story of a group of highly trained, super smart rats. The difference between the two is that Mrs. Frisby's story unfolds in real time, while most of the rats' story occurs in flashbacks, as they tell their story to Mrs. Frisby.
The protagonist in this novel is Mrs Frisby, which is unique because she is a widowed field mouse with four children- definitely not your typical hero. I actually prefer Mrs Frisby because of how ordinary she is, it encourages me to continue to aspire to do amazing things, no matter how small I may feel. It also makes it easier to sympathise with the characters if they are down to earth and vulnerable, rather than invincible superheros.
At the time The Rats of NIMH was written questions about animals, control, rights, and destiny were a big thing. Therefore, it's not at all surprising that Robert O'Brien chose to write a book that is at least partially about animal rights. Despite the fact that 'Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH' is the tale of a community of animals living in harmony, there are loads of other themes in this book. These include: wildlife and farming, medical testing using laboratory animals, courage and self-sacrifice, perseverance, teamwork, prejudice / profiling and most importantly the importance of friends and family. Right from the very start of the book Robert C. O’Brien emphasises how close the Frisby family have to be to stay alive and how much they have to depend on their friends. The fact that they are mice, particularly shows their vulnerability and need to stick together.
Stereotypes is another main theme in Robert C. O'Brien's Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. A group of highly intelligent rats and a distressed widow with four children to look after, outsmart the humans and go against everything they’re labelled as. The Rats of NIMH, for example, refuse to steal and scavenge, instead learning to live independently and grow their own food.
Speaking of food, I'd better go, my little brother JJ is begging me to go bake some cakes with him....
Off The Shelf Radio- The Rats of Nimh