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Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH ()

Newbery Award Winners (1972)

    It happened that a friend of mine was seriously ill and was sent to the NIH (National Institute of
    Health) for treatment. ÝHe was required to take a daily walk, so when I visited him a few times we
    walked together around the NIH grounds--numerous buildings set in a park. ÝOne large, low
    building was unlike the rest, and when we asked, we were told that it was the animal production
    laboratory, where rats, mice, rabbits and guinea pigs are raised for use in scientific tests. ÝThe
    attendant we talked to said that though they had no trouble with the other animals, the rats somehow
    managed to get out of their cages at times. ÝHe added that when energy and intelligence were
    required in a test, the scientist much preferred 'wild rats' over the docile laboratory-bred variety. ÝI
    am quite sure it was this conversation that put the Rats of NIMH into the back of my head--where
    they stayed for several years before emerging as a story.
        -Robert Leslie Conly [aka Robert C. O'Brien]

One of the great delights of returning, in adulthood, to the literature that enchanted us in childhood is the discovery of the great themes and subtexts to which we were oblivious then but which are so obvious now.  Mrs. Frisby is a perfect illustration of this phenomenon.  When you are young you are captivated by the animal adventure tale and your easy identification with the lowly mice.
But read it now and you realize the Biblical antecedents of the story, how the rats of NIMH, like Man, are given the gift of knowledge by their creators and how this awakens in them a sense of morality.  We recall that the rats have determined to go off and live on their own, but it's all too easy to forget, or never to notice, that the reason for their decision is that they are determined not to live by stealing.  Seeing clearly this additional component, that the rats have become moral creatures, makes their struggle even more heroic and adds a depth to the story that makes it easy to see why this novel has endured and struck a chord with readers, young and old, for some thirty years now.  It is an altogether deserving classic.


Grade: (A+)


Book-related and General Links:
    -O'BRIEN, ROBERT C. - Educational Paperback Association
    -Robert C. O'Brien Tribute Page
    -Robert C. O'Brien (Mei-Yu Lu, User Services Assistant, ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English and Communication)
    -SPEECH : NEWBERY AWARD ACCEPTANCE (Robert C. O'Brien, Given at the meeting of the American Library Association in Chicago, Illinois, on June 26, 1972)
    -ETEXT : Afterword to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH from the Penguin 1994 edition, by Nicholas Tucker
    -ESSAY : ÝRats, Kiddies, and "Rodent Ingenuity": O'Brien's Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Allyson Armistead)
    -Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
    -The Rats of Nimh - A New Home Project
    -Connecting Students > Literacy > Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
    -STUDY GUIDE : Teacher CyberGuide : Mrs. Frisby and Ýthe Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien Ý(CyberGuide by Linda Scott, San Diego County Office of Education)
    -STUDY GUIDE : RAT TALES : A Unit Study Based on Robert C. O' Brien's Newbery Award-Winning Book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (ThinkQuest Jr.)
    -STUDY GUIDE : Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of NIMH Lesson Plan (Eric Belkengren, Minnetonka Public Schools)
    -WEBRING : The Secret of Nimh Ring
    -Z for Zachariah Page
    -AWARD : Newbery Medal Home Page!
    -BOOK LIST : Top 100 Books for Children (NEA)
    -BOOK LIST : Scholastic's 200 for 2000 is a list of high-quality, best-loved books, old and new, for children in Grades PreK-8

    -INFO : The Secret of NIMH (1982) (
    -BUY IT : The Secret of NIMH (1982) DVDÝ (

    -National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
    -ESSAY : Jane Leslie Conly (The Children's Book Guild of Washington, DC)


I love the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH! It's a book you can't put down!

- Trina

- Jun-11-2006, 18:59


I loved this book! I couldn't stop reading! I am in 6th grade and we were asked to read this! I would read it again!

- Alysa

- Mar-13-2006, 20:56


i attend graeme high school in falkirk (scotland) in english we were asked to read mrs frisby and the rats of nimh i found this book very intresting so i decieded to do some research on it.i will definatly read more of his books and recomend them for people aged 10 - adults

- kirsty dalgliesh

- Jan-04-2003, 11:13