The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton (J Fantasy)

The Borrowers Afield

Mary Norton (J Fantasy)

It had been a year since Mrs. May told young Kate the story of the borrowers. Since that time, Kate had completely pushed their memory to the farthest corner of her mind until one early spring day when Mrs. May slipped her a letter and said, “This will interest you, Kate, I think.” And indeed it had since that letter had to do with Leighton Buzzard. Leighton Buzzard, as you might recall, was the country town where Great Aunt Sophy’s house was and it was in that house, as you might remember, where underneath the kitchen floorboards lived the Clocks: Pod, Homily, and Arrietty. But whatever happened to those poor Clocks? Last time we saw them, they had been smoked out of their comfortable home and left fleeing for their lives—never to be seen or heard from again. But worry not for there is one soul who knows exactly what happened to our dear friends and it is that very same person that Mrs. May and Kate—quite by chance—are about to meet.

Three years after writing The Borrowers in 1952, Mary Norton picks right up where she left off with The Borrowers Afield where our favorite trio are tirelessly trekking from Firbank to Perkin’s Beck in search of the badger’s set, home to the Hendrearies. In this book, Arrietty finally realizes her dream of living outdoors and becoming a true borrower; Homily begins to toughen up a bit, although required to become a vegetarian; and Pod continues to hold his family together while keeping an even temper and maintaining loving order. Their journey has them finding an unexpected abode, meeting several troublesome insects, and encountering a very helpful yet mysterious stranger.

Norton does not fail to live up to the expectations she established for her readers with her first book in the beloved Borrowers’ series. This next chapter is filled with adventure and ample amounts of danger, disappointment, and discovery. Through their ups and downs, the Clock family begin to not only learn more about themselves and their own capabilities, but they also learn more about one another, which results in a deeper appreciation for one another.

This book stresses family much more than the first as it truly is the Clocks vs the World. In doing so, our little troupe form a tighter bond and realize that if you’re with family, you’re already home. The Borrowers Afield is truly a fun frolic with plenty of action and suspense and every bit worthy of its predecessor.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to:

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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:

Bed-Knob and Broomstick by Mary Norton (J)

Bedknob and Broomstick

Bed-Knob and Broomstick    

Mary Norton (Juvenile Fiction)

Carey, Charles, and Paul Wilson are rather ordinary children who are planning to spend a rather ordinary summer with an old aunt in Bedfordshire.  The children, not being very fond of her house, choose to spend most of their time outdoors playing in the barns, by the river, in the lanes, and on the hills.  One day seemed to flow into the next rather uneventfully until the day that Miss Price hurt her ankle.  It was on that day where this story truly begins because Miss Price didn’t just visit the sick or teach piano or was the most ladylike in the village.  Miss Price also happened to be a witch…well, a novice witch…and it was this same Miss Price who cast a spell upon one of Paul’s bed-knobs—a spell that could take him and his bed anyplace in the present or past.  A spell that would eventually lead to a trip to the police station, an encounter with cannibals, and a chance meeting with a lonely necromancer.  Perhaps this will not be an ordinary summer for the Wilson children after all.

Bed-Knob and Broomstick is the combination of Norton’s The Magic Bed-knob (1943) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947).  The first part covers the initial meeting between the Wilson children and Miss Price and details their adventures in the present while the second part picks up two years after and sends the group into the past.  Norton’s tale is sure to delight younger readers and has enough unexpected twists and turns to keep older readers engaged as well.

Bed-Knob and Broomstick is a humorous, suspenseful, and enchanting book filled with courage, loyalty, friendship, and love.  American author Debasish Mridha once said, “The magic of love is that it has the power to create a magical world in and around us.”  Norton indeed gives us a magical world which teaches us that you’re never too young for an adventure and you’re never too old to find love.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to