by Mary Norton, published 1955
“What a world- mile upon mile, thing after thing, layer upon layer of unimagined richness- and she might never have seen it. She might have lived and died, as so many of her relations had done, in dusty twilight–hidden behind a wainscot.”
The series of five children’s books by Norton, beginning with The Borrowers, and continuing with the Borrowers Afield, Aloft, Afloat, Avenged…, are in a group by themselves. The imagination that Norton brings to the tales of these little people that live in houses, off the the lost items of humans, is so creative, that it seems like it must be true. Unlike many series, where after the first book or two, you tire of the premise, in this case, each book leaves you wanting more.
The books create a sort of long lasting tale as we follow the unfolding destiny of the family of Arrietty, her fearful mother Homily, and Pod, her experienced father. We meet memorable Spiller, a wild borrower who lives out of doors! My goodness, is that safe, Homily wonders, while Arrietty loves the idea of freedom. You can pick up these children’s books anywhere (I actually started with Borrowers Afield) but it is nice to read them in order. The first book, The Borrowers, introduces the whole concept of borrowers in wonderful detail, with the images of their life completely captivating.
Easily digested, these children’s books bring some interesting insights into the questions of living a life that is tame, safe, and just as one’s culture demands, or, being free and independent, and making a life for oneself. It is done so artfully, that both sides of the picture are clearly drawn, and the child will decide for themselves which it shall be for them.
I noticed briefly there was a Borrower’s movie, and I highly recommend keeping away from it for a while, if not forever. It overplays the drama, and detracts from the quiet beauty of these children’s books. There is plenty of drama in the writing, and more than enough to keep the little ones on edge. My guess is that perhaps by about age 11, children might outgrow the books. I hesitate to label it just for girls, but the household details and descriptions, and the fact that the main character is Arrietty, a girl borrower, makes me feel that the girls will identify more with it. Spiller is there however, for the boys who want someone daring to identify with. And yes, these children’s books can easily be read aloud. I marked this as Waldorf-aligned because of the imagination at work.