Mary Norton’s The Borrowers Afield (1955)
Illus. Beth and Joe Krush
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1990

The Clock family is on the run — quite literally — when readers return to the action of Mary Norton’s stories about the borrowers.

And there is no going back. Which is going to take some getting used to for Pod and Homily and thirteen-year-old Arrietta.

For years, Homily has lived in horror of emigrating. She has always spoken of having to live on nuts and berries with distaste, and the legend of Uncle Hendreary and his family — who have been said to have found a new home in a badger’s hole across two fields — has served as a cautionary tale throughout Arrietta’s life.

But on their first night out of the old house, they have to sleep rough. So even if the accommodations that they do establish in the first few chapters of The Borrowers Afield are not as cozy as their home beneath the floorboards of Firbank Hall once was, it’s an improvement in some ways.

And soon they are not simply making do, but they are finding pleasures in their new surroundings.

“What we want here is some kind of shutter or door. A piece of chicken wire might do. Or that cheese grater, perhaps – the one we had at home. It would have to be something that lets the light in, I mean,” she went on. “We can’t go back to living in the dark.”

Of course there are comforts of “home” that the borrowers miss greatly (unlimited tea, for instance), but they find themselves to be more resourceful and resilient than they would have guessed.

Readers learn about the borrowers adventures through Kate, once more. (Kate, who first learned of the borrowers’ existence from Mrs. May, whose brother had told her about having met the Clock family years before.)

The framework of the story is intact, but there is another facet to it in the second volume of the series.

Some might say that adding another character adds to the tale’s verisimilitude.

Some would say that question isn’t worth the asking.

“And what if it were only a story?” said Mrs. May quickly, “so long as it was a good story? Keep your sense of wonder, child, and don’t be so literal. Anything we haven’t experienced for ourselves sounds like a story. All we can ever do is sift the evidence.”

And what do you think?