The Borrowers by Mary Norton

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The Borrowers dates back to 1952, but the concept is so clever that you wonder why nobody thought of it before then.

The Clock family, Pod, Homily and their daughter Arrietty, are a family of tiny people who live beneath the floorboards of a country house. Everything that they have is “borrowed” from “human beans”, who are completely unaware where so many little things – things like hairslides, safety pins, paperclips, blotting paper and stamps – are going.

The family feel safe and secure in its home. The entrance is hidden behind a series of gates made from safety pins and hairslides. They are comfortable too, with blotting paper for carpet and postage stamps adorning the walls.

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But for young Arrietty being safe is also being trapped, and she longs to go out and discover the world that she an only watch through a grating.

Pod and Homily have reservations. Understandably, as they remember cousin Eggletina who ventured out and was never seen again. Eventually though they do allow Arrietty to accompany her father on borrowing trips.

It is on one of those trips Arrietty does something she is told she must never do. She is “seen” and she makes friends with a human boy.

After that life for the Clocks will never be quite the same.

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“The Borrowers” is a perfectly constructed and paced story. It is well framed by the boy’s sister, years later, telling her brother’s story to a child and she tells that story simply and in clear prose that really draws you in.

The world beneath the floorboards is brought to life quite wonderfully. The detail is lovely – and so clever.

And the characters are marvellous creations too. You will empathise with all of them and you certainly will have met fathers like Pod, mothers like Homily and daughters like Arrietty.

This is a book that has stood up to the passage of time and re-reading as an adult. It definitely deserves to be called a classic.

Childhood Favourites Challenge

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I was thrilled to find this challenge this morning. It’s a wonderful idea and it brightened up a dull work day.

It’s being hosted by Lynda and it has a dedicated blog here.

The challenge runs from 21st December 2008 – 21st June 2009

Here’s how it works:

  • Read a minimum of 5 books which you loved as a child. Anything from Dr.Seuss and Beatrix Potter to Water Scott – you choose your favourites. They must be books you read as a child, not new children’s books.
  • Start this challenge on or after 21st December 2008. Finish by 21st June 2009.You therefore have 6 months to complete the challenge.
  • Send an email if you would like an invitation to post on the challenge blog.
  • Post your choices on your blog and/or the group blog.You can choose in advance or pick as you go along.
  • Cross overs with other challenges, audio books, eBooks all acceptable.

I have chosen 6 books:

  • The Owl Service, by Alan Garner
  • Anne of Green Gables, by L M Montgomery
  • A Dolls House, by Rumer Godden
  • Little Women, by Louisa M Alcott
  • Alice In Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
  • The Borrowers, by Mary Norton

There are some books I’d be worried about going back to in case they didn’t have that same magic now I have joined the ranks of the grown-ups, but I have great confidence in the ones I have selected.