I picked up The Borrowers by Mary Norton to read to my children because it’s on my Classics Club list, which I’ve neglected far too long. The truth is, my girls had already listened to it in audiobook numerous times (and even read the book themselves, I believe), so this read-aloud was mostly for my benefit. That, and I think it’s good to re-read good stories. I knew the general gist of the story, though I didn’t know the details. I had some fuzzy knowledge based mostly on overhearing snatches of the audiobooks–The Borrowers, plus the sequels–as my girls listened to them. I also remember watching The Littles cartoon when I was a kid myself, so think there was some associated nostalgia involved in my including this one on my read-aloud list. (No, The Littles and The Borrowers aren’t the same story, but they are similar.) I wasn’t totally wowed by this story, but I did find it amusing and entertaining. I think my favorite part of the story is all the interesting names the Borrowers have: Pod, Homily, and Arrietty Clock; the Overmantels; the Harpischords; the Rainbarrels. Obviously, they’re indicative of where they live. Norton creates quite a detailed little world here, too, which she describes down to minute details. To imagine their world is very entertaining. Arrietty describes how her great uncle went about his Borrowing:
“My father had an uncle who had a little boat which he rowed round in the stock-pot picking up flotsam and jetsam. He did bottom-fishing too for bits of marrow until the cook got suspicious of finding bent pins in the soup. Once he was nearly shipwrecked on a chunk of submerged shinbone. He lost his oars and the boat sprang a leak but he flung a line over the pot handle and pulled himself alongside the rim. ” (78)
I happened to be reading this one aloud at the same time that I read Richard Peck’s new book, The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail, and I was struck by the similarities between the descriptions of the mouse society in Peck’s book and the Borrowers’ society in Norton’s. I suppose the similarities are inevitable, but it was just interesting to read one alongside the other. The only other book like this that I can think of (besides the aforementioned Littles, which I haven’t read) is Stuart Little by E.B. White. I suppose some of the doll stories (this one, plus the ones I mention in the post) might also be similar. Can you think of other stories about little people or creatures?
Anyway–another book off my list, and an enjoyable one, at that. 🙂 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1953)