Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by by Robert C. O’Brien.
Although I loved this movie as a child (I even had the storybook), I never read the real book. Huge mistake, this book was fantastic. The movie and novel depart significantly, with there being no magical component to the novel at all. Which is a good thing, as the book is even more compelling and interesting without it. The story starts with Mrs. Frisby, a mouse, who has recently become a widow and whose young son is sick. Although her son’s condition is improving, he is too sick to move, and the mouse family must move because their house will be destroyed by the farmer in five days. This problem eventually leads her to contact the rats of NIMH, a set of genetically modified super rats. Unlike the movie, the intrigue is not a power struggle within the rat community. That problem is resolved before the time of the book. Instead, the focus is on the rats starting a new rat-centric society to rival the human society that created the rats and that the rats depend upon for sustenance. During all of this we meet the kind crow, Jeremy; the formidable cat, Dragon; and the wise Great Owl.
Did I mention this book was great? I loved it. It actually reminds me of the great juvenile novels I read in my youth (Charlotte’s web, The Fantastic Henry Sugar, The Hobbit). Maybe I should track down some of those and enjoy those again as well.