The Borrowers Aloft, Mary Norton, Harcourt Brace & World Inc, 1961, 192 pp
THE SUNDAY FAMILY READ
How sad that I have reached the end of The Borrowers series, but what a send off!
The Borrowers came ashore after their harrowing escape by boat in The Borrowers Afloat to find a miniature model village with a ready made home just their size. Of course, it had been discovered by the intrepid Spiller.
This volume begins with a short history of how the model village came into being as a hobby of Mr Pott, a retired railway man. His meticulous craftsmanship reminded me of Keith Stewart, the main character from Nevil Shute's 1960 bestseller, Trustee From the Toolroom.
Mr Pott has a rival, a Mr Platter, wealthy builder who constructed his own model village just across the river with the aim of making money. No sooner are the Clocks are getting settled in Mr Potts' Little Fordham, than they are discovered by Mr Platter who kidnaps the family and imprisons them in his attic for the winter. He is building a house for them in his village where he plans to showcase the little people as his latest attraction.
Anyone who has read the stories of The Borrowers knows that their greatest fear is "being seen." Escape from Mr Platter must be accomplished at all costs.
Taking their usual roles as Pod the father/inventor, Homily the worried mother, and Arrietty the adventurous discoverer of new things, the family builds a balloon in which they plan to sail out of an attic window to freedom. Arrietty, you may remember, had taught herself to read back in the original house of the first book. There in the attic she found an article about ballooning in an old number of the Illustrated London News.
Their feverish work on the balloon, their departure and journey by air back to Little Fordham, and a climax more surprising than any of the previous stories, make for a suspenseful read. I never read this final book in the series as a kid. By 1961 I was starting high school and reading adult books. But I should have read it because Arrietty turns 16 and realizes that she loves Spiller and wants to marry him. To do so, she must navigate her parents' resistance to such an outlandish proposal while she learns to understand Spiller's fiercely independent personality.
Mary Norton accomplished a feat not often repeated in children's literature until J K Rowling had Harry Potter age along with his readers. Brilliant! Now I must see the movie, The Secret World of Arrietty.
(The Borrowers Aloft is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)