Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Rescuers

Mice are all for people being free, so that they too can be freed form their eternal task of cheering prisoners--so that they can stay snug at home, nibbling the family cheese, instead of sleeping out in damp straw on a diet of stale bread.

Though many people are familiar with the title The Rescuers due to the popular Disney film, most don't realize that it was based on a children's book series.  Published in 1959, this story by English author Margery Sharp tells the story of three courageous mice and strives to teach children about overcoming fear, doing without for the sake of others, and the importance of friendship and loyalty in accomplishing any task.

The Plot:

The Prisoner's Aid Society is a group of mice whose mission is to bring comfort to prisoners throughout the world.  But a new challenge has arisen that will require more than just the ability to provide comfort.  A Norwegian poet is being held deep in the dungeons of one of Europe's most notorious prisons, and the Prisoner's Aid Society decides that he must be rescued.  They send Bernard (who works in the pantry of an unnamed embassy) to solicit the help of Miss Bianca, the pet mouse of the son of an ambassador.  They want her to travel to Norway to find a mouse who can communicate with the prisoner.

At first, Bernard feels that he cannot ask Miss Bianca to embark on so dangerous a mission.  She just seems too delicate and pampered to become involved in something like that.  But though Miss Bianca is definitely on the pampered side, she decides to set all of her fear and selfishness aside to help the poor poet.  So begins an incredible journey for the mice as they learn to trust each other and overcome their fear to bring relief and freedom to a suffering man. 

My Review (Caution - Spoilers):

Like most people, I had no idea that the Disney film The Rescuers was based on an actual book series.  It turns out that the film is actually based on the 2nd book in the series, so don't be looking for too many plot similarities in this book.

This is one of those books that isn't all that bad, it just doesn't reach the heights of "classic" literature.  The story and characters are very simple and straightforward.  This makes a perfect little read for your kids, it just doesn't capture the adult imagination like other children's classics do.  As an adult, you would want to know more about the poet's background, why he was in prison, and what this said about Cold War society.  But kids will simply identify with the mice and only really care about their story.  Sharp understands this and the story is definitely geared towards them.

But though the plot is simple, the overall themes are very important for children to hear.  In Bernard, they gain an understanding of what it means to look out for those weaker than you and to not let personal feelings get in the way of your task.  In Miss Bianca, they learn that sometimes you have to go through uncomfortable situations in order to do what is right and that loyalty to friends and family is very important.  

Again, this is a very simple story that is perfect for younger children to have read to them.  Adults shouldn't expect too much from it, but it is definitely one I would recommend as bedtime reading.  The pace is good, the characters easy for kids to sympathize with, and the lessons are important ones for kids to learn.  A sweet story overall that deserves a bit more attention than it normally receives.

The Movie:

Of course the film version is the 1977 Disney adaptation.  It stars Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor as Bernard and Bianca.  Again, plotwise it has more to do with the 2nd book in the series (Miss Bianca) but it is still well done (and well loved) film.        

No comments: