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: www.amazon.com

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

Matthew Dicks (Adult Fiction)

Max Delaney is eight years old, in the third grade, and likes rules.  In fact, he likes lots and lots of rules.  Rules like bedtime is at 8:30 p.m. (no sooner and no later) and no breakfast after 9:00 a.m. or only wearing seven pieces of clothing at one time (not counting shoes).  This is who Max is and this is his world and nobody knows this world better than Budo—Max’s imaginary friend.  Budo knows Max inside and out.  He talks to him, plays with him, and watches him every night before he goes to sleep.  Budo is Max’s best friend and as long as Max thinks Budo is real, Budo won’t disappear and NOT disappearing is very important to Budo.  But when Max doesn’t come home from school one day, Budo is forced to decide between Max’s freedom and his own possible extinction.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is narrated by Budo who invites us to share his life with an extraordinary little boy with autism.  According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 1 in 59 children was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 2018, so it is very likely that you (like me) know someone with autism.  Dicks’s description of Max and his habits, daily activities, and mannerisms are meticulously detailed and painfully accurate.  Those familiar with autism know all too well the helplessness that Max’s parents experience on a daily basis.  Their never-ending quest for “normalcy” only adds to their compounded stress while their desire to connect with their child is heartbreaking in its futility.

Dicks just doesn’t deliver an accurate portrayal of a child who, as Budo says, “…doesn’t live on the outside.  Max is all inside.”, but he also gives us a book of devotion and friendship.  It’s a story about putting someone else’s wants and needs above your own; about doing what is right versus what is expedient; and about finding that inner strength that you never knew you possessed.  Budo often said that Max was the bravest little boy in the world: “Max is not like any other person in the whole world.  Kids make fun of him because he is different.  His mom tries to change him into a different boy and his dad tries to treat him like he is someone else.  Even his teachers treat him differently, and not always nicely.  With all that, Max still gets out of bed every morning and goes to school and the park and the bus stop and even the kitchen table.  But you have to be the bravest person in the world to go out every day, being yourself when no one likes who you are.”

This novel successfully checks all the boxes: suspenseful, emotional, insightful, compelling, humorous, heartwarming, chilling, and simply unforgettable.  Max and Budo will stay in your heart and mind long after you’ve read the last page.  People often said that Max couldn’t see the forest for the trees, as people with autism generally hone in on the small details without seeing the overall bigger picture.  Perhaps Max can’t see the forest for the trees, but he does see the blade of grass and the rock and the ladybug and the clover and perhaps that alone is something to be celebrated and appreciated.

Rating: 5/5

*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com