Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Borrowers Series by Mary Norton

Paperclips, safety pins, needles, thumbtacks, and pencils are just some of the things that go missing the minute you need them. Where do they all go? Surely they're not just piled up forgotten in a corner somewhere. Suppose creatures exist who borrow such things when they need them. This is just the question that author Mary Norton must have considered when she wrote her series of books about the borrowers.

In The Borrowers, we meet the Clock family (Pod, Homily, and Arietty) who live under the kitchen floor in an English manor in the country. The Clock family are borrowers. They borrow things from "human beans" so they can furnish their houses and eat. Borrowers are quite tiny, no more than 6 inches high at most. One of the rules of borrowing is never to be seen by "human beans." Alas, Pod didn't know that a boy had come to stay for the summer. While he was borrowing in the nursery, he was seen. He and Homily worry that the humans will bring in cats and rat-catchers. They might have to emigrate. For the time being, their worries don't amount to anything. Arrietty, their 13-year-old daughter, befriends the boy. In exchange for reading to him, he brings the Clock family all sorts of treasures from the nursery. However, the boy's nocturnal activities do not go unnoticed by the housekeeper. She soon sees the borrowers and thinks they're mice. The rat-catcher is called. With the help of the boy, the Clock family escapes.

The Borrowers Afield chronicles the Clock family's adventures in the wilderness. They live in a boot and search for their relatives, the Hendrearies. They make a new friend in Spiller, an outside borrower who brings them borrowings. Being discovered by humans is always a worry. A gypsy finds their boot and they are trapped in his caravan. Luckily, Spiller and another boy come to their rescue.

In The Borrowers Afloat, the Clock family is reunited with their relatives. They live in harmonious discord until the humans leave the house. A house without humans means famine for borrowers. With nothing to borrow, they will soon starve. With Spiller's help, they leave the house and began a journey to Little Fordham, a model village downriver.

In The Borrowers Aloft, the Clock family settles in to their new life in Little Fordham. Arrietty speaks to another "human bean." The lady, who still believes in fairies, is delighted that the family has settled in the model village. Unbeknown to the borrowers, the proprietor of another model village has been spying and has seen them. He steals the borrowers and locks them up in his attic. He means to put them on display come spring. Pod, Homily, and Arietty go over the attic inch by inch looking for tools to help them escape. They end up building a hot air balloon. Their homecoming is not what they expected. In their absence, Miss Menzies (the lady Arietty talked to) and Mr. Pott (owner of Little Fordham) have made improvements to the family's cottage. They furnished it and laid on both electric and running water. How can the borrowers think of staying anywhere that "human beans" are providing for them? They make plans to move out within a few days.

In The Borrowers Avenged, the Clock family, again with Spiller's help, move into the old rectory at Fordham. Arietty meets the other borrower in residence, Peagreen. He is an Overmantel, but he fell and crippled his leg. The Hendrearies, minus their two oldest boys and daughter, have taken up residence in the church. The Clock family settles down to a comfortable life. In the back of their mind, there's always the threat of being captured again.

What I Thought: This series has been one of my favorites since I was young. I have recently re-read them. The only complaint I have is that I didn't want the Clock family's adventures to end. I want to know who Arietty married. Before they came to the rectory, I would have said Spiller with some certainty. But now she knows another borrower of marriageable age. Peagreen also has his reading and writing (He's a poet) to recommend him. If you haven't ever read these before, they are classics not to be missed.


Kara said...

I'm taking the Children's Lit class with Dr. Black this semester. This one of the books I picked to read =)

Bridget said...

You'll love it, but prpbably have to read the others.