Friday, August 29, 2014

The Rescuers, by Margery Sharp

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

This funny and enchanting story of three brave mice is an entertainment for young and old alike.

The Rescuers is the first in a series of children’s novels by British author Margery Sharp (1905-1991). The series inspired two Disney films. The New York Review Children’s Collection edition, which is reviewed here, features charming illustrations by Garth Williams. At 150 pages, this is a perfectly paced and executed little story about three rather heroic mice.

Miss Bianca, the focus of the story, is a white mouse of stunning beauty. She lives in a porcelain pagoda painted with violets, primroses and lilies of the valley. She is a pampered little creature, with exquisite manners. When she is approached by Bernard, from the Prisoners’ Aid Society, to rescue a Norwegian poet imprisoned at Black Castle, she faints away. She soon gathers her strength back, along with her nerve, and travels by diplomatic pouch to Norway where she enlists the brave mouse Nils. Together all three - Bernard, Miss Bianca and Nils - go on the most thrilling adventure.

If the premise of the story sounds hilarious, that’s because it is. This is the sort of story written to amuse the adults just as much as the kids. Some of the descriptions of the divine Miss Bianca will keep you chuckling along. For example, outside of Miss Bianca’s porcelain pagoda there is a little pleasure ground:

“Round about was a pleasure ground, rather like a big bird-cage, fenced and roofed with golden wires, and fitted with swings, seesaws and other means of gentle relaxation.”

What a life! The descriptions of the other mice are full of fun too. When Miss Bianca and Nils, the Norwegian mouse, are traveling by sea, Nils likes to break out singing sea chanteys. Mouse society is organised into groups, societies and all sorts of other interesting hierarchies. In other words, it’s a perfect little world of a story, delicately put together, like a ship in a bottle. This exciting tale of mouse bravery will make you a fan of Miss Bianca and her friends, Bernard and Niles, for life.

The Rescuers, by Margery Sharp. Published by New York Review of Books.  ISBN: 9781590174609  $25

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