Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, Robert C. O'Brien
I read this book myself as a child, and so was excited to find it still available for my kids. Mr 12 enjoyed it on his own a few years ago (and still enjoys it), and I have just read it to Miss 8 & 10, who also swiftly became fans.
Mr Frisby, a widowed field mouse, lives on a farm with her 4 children. Her son, Jonathon, falls ill and she seeks help for his safe recovery from another mouse, a crow and finally an owl, who suggests she see the rats and ask for their help. All the animals on the farm know of the rats, but tend to avoid them. Bravely facing her fears, she does as instructed and in time comes to hear the story of the rats themselves and how her own husband used to be one of their friends.
It is at a simple level a lovely story of intelligent animals working together and helping one another. At a deeper level there are comments on laboratory testing and whether animals can be civilised. Reading it again as an adult, I reflected how it truly represents a humanistic world view – that is that people (or in this case, rats), when given the chance can develop into something better and become more civilised, more human, as it were. Of course, this is completely at odds with the Christian view of the depravity of man, and our need for a saviour, rather than having the ability to save ourselves. Mr 12 and I had a brief conversation to that end.
In the end though, it’s also just a lovely story.