Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert 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 easy identification with the lowly mice. But read it now and one begins to see 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, and even though young readers may not pick up on everything in the book, it shows that O’Brien chose to make a book with true relevance and meaning for all ages. This is what makes a book a classic.