The first time Timothy fell ill, he had been a tiny mouseling and Jonathan Frisby had still been alive. But when Timothy falls ill with pneumonia, the widowed Mrs. Frisby must care for Timothy all on her own. The doctor mouse, Mr. Ages, advises Timothy to stay in bed for at least another month. Unfortunately, the Spring comes early and the Frisbys will be forced to move out of their home in the field before the farmer begins to plow. Fearing that the move will kill Timothy, Mrs. Frisby is prepared to take drastic measures to find a solution to her problem–even if it means visiting the wise old owl in his lair in the forest. But the meeting with the bird of prey is nothing like Mrs. Frisby expected. Although the owl is initially unwilling to help her, as soon as he learns her husband’s name, his demeanor changes. He advises her to visit the colony of rats living in the rosebush and to tell them her husband’s name. Confused, Mrs. Frisby does as the owl says. What she finds behind the rosebush is beyond anything she has ever dreamed, and she quickly learns that the rats of Nimh are no ordinary rats–and Jonathan Frisby was no ordinary mouse.
It is clear why this book has remained so popular for so long. The winner of the 1972 Newbery Medal is a brilliantly imagined book with an intricate and creative animal world and a thread of mystery and suspense that keeps the reader engaged to the very end. Through the actions of Mrs. Frisby’s family and the rats of Nimh, O’Brien illustrates the value of love, friendship, and self-sacrifice. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy animal stories, the inventors/scientists/gadgets side of science fiction, and stories where strong but ordinary characters act heroically.