The Borrowers

Common Sense Media says

Classic tale a bit slow but retains its appeal.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The relationship between Arriety and the human boy is an inspiring one that encourages readers to look past differences. Those who are able to do so grow and develop into more mature characters that don’t live their lives guided by prejudices.

Positive role models

Arriety’s natural curiosity and hunger for freedom are often considered negative characteristics in a Borrower’s eyes – especially for her father. Trapped in a world that is seemingly too small for Arriety, her fearless character dares to dream and think outside the box. Her father, Pod, is a lot more skeptical when it comes to the idea of freedom but it is revealed that this fear of uninhibited exploration is for good measure. Pod makes risky sacrifices every day to provide for his family. Homily, Arriety’s mother, makes similar sacrifices but her fixation on material things often puts her family in precarious positions.

Violence & scariness

When the Borrower’s presence is made known, Mrs. Driver calls the rat catcher to exterminate them. She also tells the boy to watch as Arriety and her parents are about to be forced out of their home by smoke.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this classic tale retains its appeal, but some children may find it slow. Fear of capture makes the borrowing expeditions tense. The occasional black-and-white line art helps to make the tiny Borrowers more real for the young reader. Detailed descriptions of how the Borrowers use everyday objects bring the reader's imagination to life.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Borrowers are tiny people who live under the floorboards and survive by borrowing from the big people in the house. When the Clocks are discovered by the big people, they must find a new home before the exterminator gets them. This classic has survived for half a century because it charms young and old alike.

Is it any good?


While Mrs. May is recounting the wondrous tale of her brother's encounter with the Clock family to young Kate, your child will be equally enthralled. The descriptions of how the family uses our everyday trinkets fascinate children and often inspire them to create their own Borrower homes. Don't be surprised if, after the book is finished, you find your children crawling around the house looking for their own Borrowers.

Though it's often imitated in both books and movies, no one has ever managed to duplicate the appeal of Norton's infusion of magic into the everyday. Something about her cleverness and matter-of-fact style, and the humdrum lives to which the Borrowers aspire, makes the whole thing seem so plausible that it's hard to believe there aren't Borrowers scuttling through the walls and floors of your own home.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the how the Borrowers make what we view as everyday objects seem unique and wondrous. What are some of the objects that fascinate them? How do they use the objects differently than we do?

Book details

Author:Mary Norton
Illustrator:Beth and Joe Krush
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Cats, dogs, and mice, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Harcourt Brace
Publication date:April 1, 2003
Number of pages:180
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

This review of The Borrowers was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 10 years old February 20, 2011

Perfect for age six and up but not for five year olds.

My mom and I loved it! Good role models and awsome story. It was really exciting and has a little twist.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written bycoolteena2 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

this was a good book

it shows lots of fantasy
Kid, 8 years old July 18, 2012

i love this book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

it is a really good book and it taught me a very good lesson.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much consumerism


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