BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Secret World of Arrietty (vols. 1-2) planning by Hayao Miyazaki, based on The Borrowers by Mary Norton, translated Rieko Izutsu-Vajirasarn and Jim Hubbert

Secret World of Arrietty 1-2

The latest from Studio Ghibli, powered by the creative genius of legendary Hayao Miyazaki, introduces brave Arrietty, her auburn tresses pulled up by a tiny orange clothespin, ready to explore and conquer the “bean” world. Released by Disney in the U.S. last month, the animated film The Secret World of Arrietty reimagines Mary Norton’s classic children’s series, The Borrowers (the Carnegie Medal-winning debut title is already a half-century old!), with signature Miyazaki style (think My Friend Totoro, Spirited Away, and Ponyo). If you missed the film or want to enhance your Arrietty experience, fabulous Viz Media offers a richly-colored, seemingly frame-by-frame (complete with credits even!) manga version in two volumes – truly a visual masterpiece.

At 14, Arrietty is more than curious about the outside world. She’s a tiny “Borrower,”  looking forward to joining her father for her “first borrowing”: venturing in the dark of night into the “bean” world – as in belonging to human beings – to “borrow” the small things they need (like a single sugar cube).

That day, Arrietty watches the arrival of a new addition to the bean household under which Arrietty and her parents live … but the young boy, who has come to visit his aunt, just might have seen Arrietty. By the end of volume 1, Arrietty’s burgeoning friendship with Shawn – a sickly boy who must spend most of his time resting in bed – irrevocably threatens the safety of Arrietty’s family’s secret home …

Volume 2 opens with Shawn’s aunt explaining how his mother and grandfather were so convinced of the little people’s existence that his grandfather had an intricate, miniature home (complete with working gourmet kitchen!) constructed in the hope that the tiny friends might one day inhabit it. “Too many memories of wishes that never came true,” Shawn’s aunt explains, is why his mother doesn’t like to visit her childhood home anymore.

The elderly housekeeper Hara, who has been with the family for decades, listens closely … her interest more than passing. From afar, she guesses at Shawn’s growing friendship with Arrietty, and becomes obsessed with finding – and trapping! – the little people herself. Meanwhile, Arrietty’s father needs to find another home quickly … hopefully somewhere their small family might even find other Borrowers. With both father and daughter otherwise engaged, Mother finds herself in grave danger …

In case you had any doubt, be assured that the unique magic of Studio Ghibli transfers entrancingly to the page. From the growling cat to the light beams filtering gently through a grate to an overly inquisitive cricket to a single teardrop, all the careful details embody the motion-filled adventure and the quiet moments of contemplation. Together, both volumes make for a truly sublime achievement.

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2012 (United States)
Original Japanese edition published by Tokuma Shoten Co., Ltd.



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