My favorite tiny world

I love this series so much that it features in 4 posts on my other blog. The first book in this series won the Carnegie Medal (Britain’s answer to the Newbery) in 1952.

The Borrowers, Mary Norton (1952-1982), 5 vols. + one short story

It’s so easy to believe that Borrowers actually exist. I like to think that I have some in my own apartment, noshing on the leftovers in the kitchen while I nap in front of the television, or harvesting straight pins that fall to the floor when I sew.

I read the first volume when I was in elementary school, and the last volume when I was in my 30s, and I still find time to reread the entire set every 2-3 years. I love Pod’s determination, Arrietty’s joy, even Homily’s nervous yearnings for a more refined life.

I can’t imagine there’s anyone who doesn’t know who Borrowers are, but just in case: they’re tiny people, no more than 3-4 inches tall, who harvest what they need (food, tools, clothing, furniture, etc.) from humans (“human beans”). A hat pin becomes a sword and stair climbing tool, blotting paper serves as a rug, old letters work as wallpaper, a thimble makes a good soup bowl.

Pod, Homily and Arrietty Clock live quietly until things begin to happen that endanger them, and they must escape. The 5 volumes take them from their home (whose entrance is under the hall clock), through fields, down rivers, and over land, to the safe house where we see them last. How they manage, camping out or escaping from an attic, is truly marvelous to read, and it’s always fun to see how they get the better of us clumsy humans.

Ignore the poor filmed versions. They can’t compare with the stories (and illustrations, by Beth and Joe Krush). If you haven’t read this series, you’re missing something beautiful and unusual.

The BorrowersThe Borrowers AfieldThe Borrowers AfloatThe Borrowers AloftThe Borrowers AvengedThe Last Borrowers Story: Poor Stainless

About Lizzie Ross

in no particular order: author, teacher, cyclist, world traveler, single parent. oh, and i read. a lot.
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4 Responses to My favorite tiny world

  1. Of course I’ve seen the movie (the Japanese version, that is – The Secret World of Arriety), but I’ve never read the book. At this rate, my “to be read” list will never get any shorter! 🙂

  2. calmgrove says:

    Finally got round to reading the first in the series recently. Even though I’ve seen a movie (not Arrietty – yet – but the live action version with John Goodman) and two BBC television adaptations, there’s no substitute for the real thing, and I was entranced by both word and illustration. Hopefully the rest will follow in due course!

    • Lizzie Ross says:

      The stories get better, with real villains, and Spiller is such a wonderful creation. Ian Holm made a good Pod, and I love Penelope Wilton in just about anything — the BBC version is my fave of all the films, but, as you say, ain’t nothin’ like the real thing.

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