Robert Leslie Conley was enjoying a career as a senior editor in the employ of National Geographic Magazine. And this was back when that magazine held a reputation beyond repute; back before it was in the hands of anti-science magnate, Rupert Murdoch. If someone along the spectrum of Murdoch’s knowledge of science had been in charge of National Geographic prior to 1972, readers might have been treated to the story of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH much earlier and its author Robert C. O’Brien might not have felt compelled to use a name other than Robert Leslie Conley.
Conley entered the world of children’s literature at a relatively late age. Unfortunately, far too late an age to provide his readership with the multiple adventures of those rats at NIHM that might have gotten had he commenced his second career earlier in life. The man known to millions of readers of his beloved book would pass away in just a matter of literally a few years following publication of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. While sequels have been written by his daughter Jane, surely there is no substitute for the original. And what an original and breathtaking work of fiction Robert C. O’Brien’s truly turned out to be.
It’s not just millions of kids who agreed that O’Brien’s book was a breathtaking adventure of the highest order. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH took home the ultimate honor for a writer of children’s books in 1972, winning the prestigious Newberry Award. In 1982, Disney apostate Don Bluth created an animated film from this source material retitled The Secret of NIMH with a tone varying significantly resulting from the decision to transform one of the major characters into a Yoda-like mystic. The CGI revolution in animation of the 21st century simulated plans for a live action/animation combo remake.
The fundamental underlying element of the story in this novel is, of course, the impact of scientific experimentation on lab rats, specifically genetic enhancement of their intelligence. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH has become one of those children’s books that appeared forever destined to be detached from reality, but recent experiments now bring that assumption under scrutiny.