Sunday, March 07, 2010



The Borrowers, Mary Norton, Harcourt Brace & World, 1952, 180 pp

This was absolutely one of my favorite books when I was growing up. I don't remember how old I was when I first read it but I do know I read it many times.

Borrowers are little, tiny people about the size of mice who live between the walls and under the floors of houses. They furnish their rooms and get their food and objects by "borrowing" from the house. The biggest danger is being "seen."

Arrietty Clock, the nine-year-old daughter of Pod and Homily, who sleeps in a cigar box bed and writes her diary in the margins of a Tom Thumb Diary and Proverb Book, dreams of being allowed to go borrowing with her father. Finally, having no son, Pod agrees and takes her out from behind the grandfather clock in the entrance hall. (Most Borrower families are named for their location in the house.)

Arrietty is excited and innocent and careless, in the way of nine-year-olds. Before long she has met a human Boy and revealed way too much about her life and where she lives. She has gone far beyond being "seen." Now the fate of the Clock family hangs in the balance. They may have to "emigrate" to the outdoors which is Homily's worst nightmare. 

The pace of the story is breathless and the descriptions of how Borrowers live are fascinating. Looking back now, I think the appeal was based on the feeling I had as a child that I was so much smaller than adults and much of what I had to use or play with was borrowed from the adult world.

Of all the books I have reread from childhood, this one still contained for me its charm, interest and impact. In fact, it may have been the first "page-turner" of my reading life.

(The Borrowers is available on the shelf for readers 8-12 at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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