Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Fumbling Through Fantasy: The Borrowers by Mary Norton (1952)

When Mrs. May is sewing with her niece, Kate, one day, she begins to tell a story about her younger brother, now deceased, and a family of very tiny people known as The Borrowers. In the story, her brother is nine years old, and he is sent to convalesce with some relatives in the country after an illness. While there, he becomes aware that a young Borrower named Arrietty Clock is living under the floor of the house with her parents, Homily and Pod. Homily and Pod are wary of Big People, and they are highly protective of Arrietty, but Arrietty and The Boy became friends anyway, leading to a dangerous situation for the Clock family, from which The Boy must try to help them escape.

We listened to the audiobook of The Borrowers in the car on a weekend day trip, and there were times where I wasn't paying very careful attention to the story. Still, despite my mind wandering occasionally, and the fact that I would not have chosen this book on my own, I actually found myself becoming invested in the culture of the Borrowers, and in the unlikely friendship between Arrietty and her family and The Boy.

I think the most impressive aspect of the book is in all the details. I love the descriptions of the Clock family's home and the mention of the fact that some of their relatives have "Parkay" floors. Also interesting are the mentions of the difficulties Pod endures when he goes out borrowing, such as "curtain-and-chair jobs" that require a lot of dangerous climbing.  Norton also sets up an interesting conflict in the story when The Boy both alleviates some of these challenges and brings about a new set of problems at the same time.

Though I think my 3-year-old and 5-year-old will most likely hear this book again or read it independently in the future, it was not a bad choice for their current ages. They did sleep through some of it, so I'm not sure they got a full picture of what was happening, but there was nothing in the story that was really beyond their comprehension, except maybe for the ending when Mrs. May leaves things ambiguous and open-ended for young Kate. And since there are sequels, this is unlikely to matter for long anyway.

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