The Borrowers by Mary Norton – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

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Are you looking for a delightful story to share with your students? Look no further than The Borrowers by Mary Norton!

From the exciting adventures of the tiny Borrower family to the importance of each character’s bravery, there is something in this novel that all readers can relate to.

Not only has it been praised by teachers and librarians alike as one of the most inspiring children’s books ever written, but its themes are relevant to today’s world more than ever before.

This blog post will provide an overview of how best to plan your lesson around The Borrowers – from initial discussions and activities preceding reading through anticipation guides.

At the same time, they read and ended appropriately with meaningful follow-up conversations after reading.

Related: For more, check out our article on Peter Pan  here.

The Borrowers

The Borrowers Storyline

The Borrowers is a children’s fantasy novel written by Mary Norton and first published in 1952.

It tells the story of a family of tiny people who secretly live in the walls and floors of an old English house, borrowing items from their “human beans” for their needs.

The main character is a young girl called Arrietty Clock, who lives with her parents Pod and Homily, in a private home beneath the kitchen floor.

They travel and adventure across house rooms, taking small items like pins, thimbles and sugar cubes to sustain themselves. They have one primary rule that they must abide by – never let the human beans see them!

However, things become complicated when Arrietty befriends a young human bean boy named Peter Lender.

As his visits to her home become more frequent, the Clocks find themselves in greater danger as their whereabouts become known to other humans.

To save themselves and survive in such a hostile environment, they must use all their imagination and quick thinking to outsmart their enemies.

Key Themes in The Borrowers

The Borrowers is a classic children’s story with several key themes: courage, family loyalty and friendship.


One of the main themes explored in the book is courage. This is shown through Arrietty’s bravery to travel alone into the unknown human world, despite her parents’ warnings.

Her courage is also seen when she stands up for herself against more powerful opponents and refuses to be intimidated by them.

Family Loyalty

Family loyalty is another strong theme in The Borrowers. Pod and Homily protect their daughter and try to shield her from danger at all costs.

They also risk their lives by putting themselves in harm’s way to protect Arrietty. Despite their different personalities, Pod and Homily always have each other’s backs no matter what.


The final key theme explored in the book is friendship. Through her company with Peter Lender, Arrietty grows in confidence and starts to believe that they don’t have to remain hidden forever.

They help each other navigate through difficult situations even though they come from entirely different worlds, showing that true friendship knows no boundaries.

Key Characters in The Borrowers

The Borrowers tells the story of several key characters with unique personalities.

Arrietty Clock

Arrietty Clock is a young borrower girl who secretly lives in the walls and floors of an old English house. Her curiosity and bravery often take her on risky adventures, despite her parents’ warnings.

She befriends a human bean boy named Peter Lender, and through their friendship, she starts to believe that maybe they don’t have to remain hidden forever.

Pod Clock

Pod Clock is Arrietty’s father and head of the family. He is practical and logical, tries to play it safely, and doesn’t take unnecessary risks.

Despite this, he still shows immense courage when he puts himself in harm’s way, if it means protecting his daughter.

Homily Clock

Homily Clock is Arrietty’s mother and Pod’s wife.

Unlike Pod, she has a more emotional approach to life and often worries about the danger lurking everywhere. She is fiercely protective of Arrietty but also takes comfort in knowing she has someone like Pod by her side no matter what happens.

Peter Lender

Peter Lender is a young human boy who discovers the existence of the borrowers living in his house one day.

He quickly becomes friends with Arrietty, putting them both in dangerous situations due to his carelessness.

His friendship with Arrietty helps demonstrate that true friendship knows no boundaries between species or worlds, even though they come from entirely different backgrounds.

How To Teach Children The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Teaching children literature can be a fun yet challenging task, and Mary Norton’s ‘The Borrowers’ is no exception. This charming tale of tiny people living secretly in the houses of humans is filled with adventure and imagination that can captivate young minds.

Here are some steps to effectively teach this classic novel to children:

Introduce the Book

Start by introducing the book and its author. Talk about Mary Norton and her inspiration for writing ‘The Borrowers’. Discuss the main characters – Pod, Homily, and Arrietty Clock- and briefly overview the plot without giving away too much.

Read Aloud and Discuss

Reading aloud is an excellent way to engage children. As you read, stop at critical moments to discuss what’s happening, ask predictive questions, and encourage children to share their thoughts. This interactive approach will help them understand the story better.

Vocabulary Building

‘The Borrowers’ has a rich vocabulary that can enhance children’s language skills. Make a list of new words from each chapter, discuss their meanings, and encourage children to use them in sentences.

Activities and Projects

Engage children in various activities related to the book. They could draw pictures of how they imagine the Borrowers’ world, write diary entries from a Borrower’s perspective, or even create their Borrower homes using craft materials. Such activities will help children connect with the story on a deeper level.

Discussion and Analysis

After finishing the book, discuss the story’s themes: survival, family, courage, and adaptation. Ask open-ended questions encouraging children to think critically and share their story interpretations.

Connect to Other Works

If the children enjoyed ‘The Borrowers’, introduce them to the sequels or similar books. This can help cultivate a love for reading and exploring various literary genres.

Remember, the goal is to teach the book and instill a love for reading and literature in children. With patience, creativity, and engagement, ‘The Borrowers’ can become an exciting journey into the world of tiny people living under the floorboards.

Teaching Opportunities from The Borrowers

Here are some of the critical lessons that can be explored in the classroom:

  • Courage and standing up for yourself: Arrietty’s bravery to travel alone into the unknown human world, despite her parents’ warnings, is an inspiring example of courage and standing up for yourself.
  • Family loyalty: Pod and Homily put each other’s well-being before their own and risk themselves to protect Arrietty, showcasing the value of family loyalty under challenging situations.
  • Friendship transcending boundaries: Peter Lender and Arrietty become close friends despite being from entirely different backgrounds, showing that true friendship knows no boundaries.
  • Responsibility and consequences: Through his carelessness in helping the borrowers, Peter has to take responsibility for the products, which shows how important it is to think through all decisions before acting.
The Borrowers

Lesson Plan: Courage and Self-Advocacy


This lesson aims to delve into courage and self-advocacy by using literary examples, mainly focusing on the character Arrietty from Mary Norton’s ‘The Borrowers. Students will learn to relate these themes to their experiences and real-world situations.


Initiate the session by introducing the primary subject matter – courage and standing up for oneself. Use a short video or read selected excerpts from ‘The Borrowers’ that highlight Arrietty’s brave actions. This will set the context and create an engaging start for the lesson.

Main Discussion Points:

Facilitate a discussion around a pivotal scene in ‘The Borrowers’ where Arrietty displays significant courage. Encourage students to express their views on why this instance exemplifies bravery and how it can be related to real-life circumstances. Promote conversation-based learning, emphasizing how one can advocate for themselves in adversity.

Reflection and Connection:

After the main discussion, transition into reflecting on other literary works that portray similar themes of bravery and courage when confronting challenging situations. This will help students draw parallels between different stories and understand the universal nature of these themes.

Key Questions for Critical Thinking:

  1. What are the key takeaways from Arrietty’s courageous actions?
  2. How can we apply the lessons learned from Arrietty’s bravery to our own lives?
  3. In what ways can one summon their inner strength when faced with daunting challenges?

Remember, the goal of this lesson isn’t just to analyze a character’s actions but to inspire students to embody courage and self-advocacy in their own lives. By the end of this lesson, students should feel empowered to stand up for themselves and others, even when faced with obstacles.

Other Relevant Books:

  1. The Harry Potter series is an excellent example of courage, bravery, and inner strength. In the books, Harry faces multiple obstacles with incredible resilience and determination, proving time and again why courage is an important life lesson.
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is another fantastic story that showcases courage and standing up for yourself in the face of adversity. Atticus Finch’s example of heroic bravery despite immense pressure from society to turn his back on justice speaks volumes about one’s capacity for inner strength and courage.
  3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins follows Katniss Everdeen as she takes on a corrupt government without fear despite being vastly outnumbered. Katniss’ moral compass and strength throughout her journey are a testament to what one can do when standing up for their beliefs despite the odds against them.

Lesson Plan: Understanding and Embracing Family Loyalty


To delve into the dynamics of familial relationships, emphasizing the role of loyalty and support within a family unit. Students will understand how family members can be supportive pillars during challenging times.


Kick-start the lesson by introducing the main characters from Mary Norton’s ‘The Borrowers’ – Pod, Homily, and Arrietty. Use a short video or read selected excerpts to familiarize students with these characters and their familial bonds.

Key Discussion Points:

Stimulate a conversation around the instances where Pod and Homily prioritized each other’s well-being and risked their own safety to protect Arrietty. Analyze these scenarios in-depth, discussing the essence of putting one’s family first even under stressful situations. Draw parallels with real-life situations to make the discussion more relatable for the students.

Reflective Activity:

Engage students in a thought experiment – if they were in the shoes of their parents, how would they react towards their child in a situation similar to that of Pod, Homily, and Arrietty? Extend this discussion to understand family dynamics across various cultures or generations, encouraging students to share their personal experiences if they feel comfortable.

Key Questions for Deeper Understanding:

  1. What are some concrete ways in which we can exhibit support towards our families during adversity?
  2. How has your family shown up for you when you encountered a challenge in your life?
  3. How do cultural or generational differences impact family loyalty and support?

This lesson aims to instill a deeper understanding and appreciation of family loyalty among students. By the end of the session, they should be able to identify the importance of family support and apply the lessons learned to their own lives.

Books With Family Loyalty as a Theme

  1. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult – Through the eyes of young Anna, this story explores how families can band together during times of difficulty and how far someone is willing to go for their loved ones.
  2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak follows Liesel’s plight as she offers unwavering loyalty to her adoptive family in Nazi-ruled Germany despite the danger it poses to her own life.
  3. The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman – This book raises detailed questions about how far one should go to protect and support their family amidst difficult decisions that have lifelong consequences.

Website Resources

These three websites are great resources for learning about Mary Norton’s classic novel, The Borrowers.

  • The first website, The Borrowers Reading Comprehension, provides educational activities and materials that enable students to understand the text better.
  • The second website, The Borrowers: Narrative Writing, features an interactive unit to help students explore the novel’s narrative structure and create original stories inspired by it.
  • Lastly, Teacherspayteachers is an online marketplace full of additional teaching resources dedicated to The Borrowers, including worksheets and activity ideas that can be adapted in the classroom or at home.


1. What is the ‘The Borrowers’ by Mary Norton about?

‘The Borrowers’ is a captivating tale featuring tiny people who live secretly in the homes of humans and ‘borrow’ items to survive. It’s a rich narrative that explores themes of survival, resourcefulness, and courage.

2. How can I incorporate ‘The Borrowers’ into my curriculum?

The book offers numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching. You can use it to stimulate creative writing, delve into character analysis, or explore broader themes in social studies or science lessons. Isn’t it intriguing to consider how everyday objects take on entirely new significance when viewed from a different perspective?

3. Are there any specific teaching resources available for ‘The Borrowers’?

Yes, there are plenty of resources available online, including lesson plans, activity sheets, and reading guides. These tools can provide a structured approach to teaching the book and help you cover its key aspects effectively.

4. Is ‘The Borrowers’ suitable for students of all reading abilities?

Absolutely! The book’s engaging narrative and relatable characters make it accessible and enjoyable for a wide range of reading abilities. From less confident readers to those seeking deeper thematic exploration, everyone can find something to love in this timeless classic.

5. How can ‘The Borrowers’ foster a love for reading among my students?

By immersing students in the miniature world of the Borrowers, you can ignite their imagination and curiosity. Encouraging them to predict plot developments, empathize with characters, or even create their own Borrower adventures can deepen their engagement and nurture a lifelong love for reading.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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