The Secret of NIMH was one of those formative animated movies for me when I was a kid. My brother and I loved it, probably because it was one of the more violent films that we had seen up to that point. The final scene has the two main groups of rats battling each other, some get stabbed, some get crushed, and in the end there is some pretty sweet magic. I had no idea that it was based on a book, until the other day when I was in the children's section of Joseph-Beth, looking for The Wednesday Wars. I bought both of the books, decidedly more excited about Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.
Mrs. Frisby is a widowed field mouse with four children. Every year they move out of their home in the garden, escaping the farmer’s plow. With the time to move approaching, Timothy, Mrs. Frisby’s youngest, gets very sick. She is afraid that moving him with be too much. At the behest of Jeremy, a crow that she rescued from the farmer’s cat, Mrs. Frisby goes to visit the old owl that lives in the woods, who tells her to ask the rats for help. These are no ordinary rats. Something is very different about them. As she works with them to solve her problem, Mrs. Frisby finds out that their past and hers are much more connected than she could ever have imagined.
I was interested to see how the magic at the end of the movie would be explained in the book, since often things make a little more sense in book form than they do as a movie (The Shining anyone?). However, O’Brien’s book has no magic in it whatsoever. His is a story that is easily explained, nearly plausible. I realized this about halfway through the book, and I was okay with it. As much as I like The Secret of NIMH, the ending never quite made sense to me. But I was looking forward to the big battle that took place as the rats were trying to move Mrs. Frisby’s house. The battle wasn’t in the book either. Now that was disappointing.
I would have like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH much more if I had never seen The Secret of NIMH, which created certain expectations. The ending of the book was especially lackluster when compared with its cartoon counterpart. All in all, it was a good book, but I couldn't help but compare it with one of the greatest movies of all time. And in that comparison, it falls a little short.