Posted by: Lizzie Ross | May 21, 2010

Classic Friday: The Borrowers

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 becomes a rug, old letters become 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, huge humans.

In 2007, the first book in this series was named one of the ten most important children’s novels of the past 70 years (by CILIP); if you haven’t read it and the rest of the series, you’re missing something beautiful and unusual.

The Borrowers, The Borrowers Afield, The Borrowers Afloat, The Borrowers Aloft, The Borrowers Avenged, The Last Borrowers Story: Poor Stainless


  1. […] the world Mary Norton created for her Borrowers! (See an earlier post on my blog for more info about the series.) When I first read these books, I was convinced that […]

  2. […] efforts for NaNoWriMo 2011, I could fight the urge no longer, and I pulled out my 5+ volume set of The Borrowers and read them all in about 3 days. It was restful, reminding me why I read so many of my favorite […]

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