The Borrowers by Mary Norton (J Fantasy)

The Borrowers

Mary Norton (J Fantasy)

It is said that there are people who were so frightened, that each generation grew smaller and smaller and became more and more hidden. They’re often found in quiet, old houses that are deep in the country. They became known as the “little people” and one nine-year-old boy actually met some of these people who he came to know as the Clocks: Pod, Homily, and Arrietty. They were real. Absolutely real. He swears by it, but he is just a little boy and quite prone to fantasy and make believe. Or is he?
Buckle up because Mary Norton gives readers plenty of action, adventure, and danger along with some rather devious villains (isn’t Crampfurl just the perfect name for a baddy?) and one unassuming and unsuspecting hero. For underneath the kitchen floor is a world that captures the imagination and delights the senses. A world where matchboxes are dressers, postage stamps are works of art, and blotting paper makes for a rather smart rug. It’s the world of the Borrowers and it’s been captivating readers since its publication in 1952.

It’s easy to see how The Borrowers has become a classic and why Norton followed this book with four successors. Although I liked its themes of family, friendship, and trust, I truly appreciated that Norton didn’t shy away from making her main characters flawed and, at times, unlikeable. Afterall, it was not their discovery by the “human beans” that led to their ultimate downfall, but rather it was their own pride and greed. Albert Einstein once said, “Three great forces rule the world: stupidity, fear, and greed.” Perhaps Homily Clock could have benefitted from these words.

The Borrowers has everything that a young reader would enjoy…except for the ambiguous ending. Just when you think Norton has everything buttoned up, she throws in one final sentence—just four little words—that turns the entire story on its ear. Now, if I had been a reader in 1952 and had just read the last page of this wonderful story, I might be a little miffed at our Mrs. Mary Norton for leaving me high and dry. Thankfully, this isn’t 1952 and I know that not one but FOUR sequels await me, which means that the dear Clocks were not only real, but that they did in fact survive their hopeless fate. But perhaps Norton predicted what her readers’ reaction would be and tried to offer them some bit of solace and hope when she had Mrs. Kay say to young Kate, “…stories never really end. They can go on and on and on. It’s just that sometimes, at a certain point, one stops telling them.” Thankfully, the Clocks’ story does go on and it will continue to go on as long as there are readers who keep telling and sharing it.  

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to:

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright (J Newbery Medal)

Thimble Summer

Elizabeth Enright (J Newbery Award)

It was the hottest day in the entire history of the world. At least it felt like it to Garnet Linden as she looked out over her family’s dying crops. Where was the rain? If it didn’t come soon, they would have to harvest their oats for hay and wouldn’t have enough money to pay their mounting bills. On top of all that, her father needed a new barn. Her family not only needed rain, they needed a miracle, but all Garnet had was a small silver thimble that she’d found in the damp, sandy flats of the river. What possible good could that ever do?

Elizabeth Enright’s Thimble Summer received the Newbery Medal in 1939. Her book is a culmination of her grandmother’s childhood stories, her mother’s school days, her own experiences, and various memories of her friends and relatives. All told, Enright gives us a nine-year-old’s memorable summer filled with a high-speed bus ride, runaway chickens, a blue ribbon, a new sibling, and an unexpected sleepover in the town library. Thimble Summer is charming, engaging, and the ideal read for a young reader looking for adventure and suspense without any of the tragedy. It highlights the kindness of strangers and reminds us that family is so much more than blood. Although this story wouldn’t translate well today (as a nine-year old hitchhiking to another town would elicit a call from both local law enforcement and child protective services), readers still have to admire Garnet’s hutzpah when it comes to showing her older brother that she isn’t a total failure while looking good doing it!

In her Newbery Medal acceptance speech, Enright noted the joy she gleaned from writing about children for children since “a child sees everything sharp and radiant; each object with its shadow beside it. Happiness is more truly happiness than it will ever be again, and is caused by such little things.” I think through Garnet Linden, Elizabeth Enright is encouraging all of us to hold onto the magic of delighting in the little things that life has to offer so that we too can experience our very own thimble summer.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to:

George Müller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans by Janet & Geoff Benge

George Müller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans

Janet & Geoff Benge (Adult Christian)

Later that day, as George sat in the stagecoach rumbling back towards Halle, he felt strangely relieved. The sense of looming confrontation he’d felt on the journey home had been replaced with a sense of expectation. He had been given no choice but to cut ties with his earthly father. Now all he had was his heavenly Father to provide for him. As the villages and fields slipped by, George wondered how it would all work out.

George Müller was caught stealing at the age of ten. By twelve, he was sneaking away from boarding school at night and attending parties filled with beer and card games. His father wanted him to be a Lutheran pastor and earn a steady income, but drinking and gambling proved to be the stronger lure for the young man from Kroppenstaedt, Prussia. But one November afternoon in 1825 changed George Müller’s course forever. On that day, he attended his first Bible meeting and his world—along with his world view—would never be the same.

Janet and Geoff Benge give readers a remarkable story of faith, hope, and complete surrender. George Müller was miraculously transformed from an arrogant and self-indulgent college student to a man who relied solely on the grace and generosity of God to provide for him, his family, and the thousands of orphans he clothed, fed, housed, and educated. George died at the ripe old age of 92 and during his expansive lifetime, he had traveled over 200,000 miles, visited 42 countries, and met with British royalty, countless dignitaries, an American president, and the author Charles Dickens. Despite being the steward of over £1 million, he meticulously kept track of every pound and shilling and ensured that every donation was used solely for its intended purpose. He was as dutiful in his bookkeeping as he was in his prayers and George, despite countless obstacles, hardships, and impossible odds, remained steadfast in his faith and trust in God.

There was one moment in George’s life where he was staring at an empty table and looking into the eyes of dozens of hungry orphans who were anxiously awaiting their breakfast. George—never one to despair or doubt—simply told those around him to wait for the miracle to happen for even though the pantry was bare and the milk jugs empty, he knew that a higher power was in charge and that He would be faithful in fulfilling His promises.

George Müller left this world far richer and wiser than he was when he lived with his wealthy father or attended his prestigious schools. Through his daily actions, he became the father to 10,000 orphans and epitomized the words in Luke 1:37 that says, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

Rating: 4/5

* Book cover image attributed to: