Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Borrowers

My children loved this book. I picked up a copy at a used book sale at the library (a great way to get cheap books, if you're willing to hunt for the good ones) and when I brought it home, they were instantly curious about the tiny people depicted on the front cover. The picture I have posted here is not the same as the cover of my book, but it's the same illustrator, so it'll do. "The Borrowers" by Mary Norton is about a boy who goes to live with his Great-Aunt Sophy around the turn of the century. His family goes home to England after living in India and he comes down with rheumatic fever. He's sent off to the country to rest and there meets the Borrowers. They are a tiny race of people who live under the floor of this old country house. They borrow what they need from the human "beans" and try to stay out of sight. Great-Aunt Sophy knows about them, but since they only decide to show up after she's been drinking, she thinks they are a figment of her intoxicated brain. The boy discovers the Clock family, Pod, Homily and Arrietty, by accident and becomes a friend and helper to them, despite their initial dismay of being "seen." Arrietty is the teenage daughter of Pod and Homily and desperate to see the world outside of the passages under the floor. They are the only Borrowers left in the house since all the other families have emigrated, something Homily refuses to do. It was so fun to hear about how they go about their borrowing and what they do with the things they collect. The illustrations were detailed pen drawings that helped my three-year-old stay interested. All in all, they loved it.

Since the book was published in 1952 and all the action takes place several years before that, some of the language was a mystery to my children, and to me. I didn't have a clue what blotting paper is, but the Borrowers considered it quite a necessity. That didn't stop us or keep it from being enjoyable, though. I went to Wikipedia and read that there are five more books about the Borrowers. We might have to check those out sometime. I also read that there have been some t.v. and movie versions of the book, but when I went to imdb.com to see if it looked worth watching, I was really disappointed. The plot was nothing like the book, only using the premise of little people living within a house as a common thread. Oh well, movies are never as good as books, so I'm not surprised.

When I was a child, I loved to dream up these sort of things, so it was delightful to re-enter that imaginary world. Part of the fun of reading this book was watching my children's eyes open with amazement. The great part of childhood is that you can thoroughly believe in something like tiny people living within the walls of your house without practicality or realism ruining the fun. After we finished it, I asked my oldest child if she thought the Borrowers were real. She said no, but later, she and her sister were discussing where Borrowers might live in our house. I consider that a sign of a good book.


  1. Hi RHE,
    What a cute book. Actually, I think that we have several families of borrowers in our house, and maybe another one or two in the shop, and maybe one in the boat. At least that is where I now think my tools go to. Give the girls hugs from us.

  2. travis used to read those books when he was little. we watched the movie (before i read the book) and it was super cute! there is also a movie (and maybe a book?) called the lenders. its about the big people! :) super cute.