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The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Reading List
Reading List
Reviewed by Nancy Young

The Borrowers by Mary Norton is a book for the child in everyone who wishes for magic in the midst of everyday life. We include it in our late-winter reading list if only to imbue the indoors with more than usual magic.

Borrowers are miniature people who live by borrowing what they need and want from the world of us giants. They live by snitching and by ingenuity.

The concept almost demands a moment of silence in respect for the genius able to formulate so delightful an explanation for something as mundane as the disappearance of socks in the laundry or the host of household things we spend a lifetime losing and replacing. Of course, in a child's world there is the added satisfaction of finding a fanciful way of dealing with the ever present specter of accusation and blame that stalks the issue of a missing-this or a misplaced-that.

Norton's characters are real. The settings are real, too. The author steps into both and paints them with a deft pen of understanding. Through her words, the world of the borrowers – back of the baseboards and in the crawl spaces -- comes to life. Stepping into it we draw closer to the world we knew as children. The memory of childhood is dusted off a bit, and to the children in our own lives we find bridges newly made that span the gulf between their world and ours.

The story is also about growing up, about taboo questions, about ignorance of the world beyond the backyard fence, about the struggle of parents to protect and yet set free the child they nurture. There is plenty of captivating warmth and wit, suspense, and ingenuity.

Tags: 2010, Book reviews

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