As I mentioned before, I decided to reread Robert C. O'Brien's Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH in order to rejuvenate my compassion for little critters. It didn't work. But I still loved this book.
Mrs. Frisby is a mother mouse and her youngest son, Timothy is very ill. So ill that he can't possibly make the move to their winter home. What to do, what to do? With some guidance from other field animals (a crow and an owl), Mrs. Frisby turns to the rats for some help. During her quest, she learns about the rats' mysterious past: being scientifically enhanced in order to learn at an incredible speed and significantly slow down the aging process.
As a result, they are super rats and that thought scares me. They claim they aren't evil and are even carrying out a "Plan" to clear their negative image (they don't like terms like "rat race), but I kept removing myself from this imagined world and freaking out about the possibility that rats were going to march through my front door. NO THANK YOU.
Aside from that horrifying image (that and the prospect of rats and mice teaming together to take over the world), the book is great for children, I'd say ages 9-11 years. I myself read this book in the fourth grade. As a project, I made the BEST board game ever. It followed Mrs. Frisby's path to her new home and had a bunch of obstacles and cards and really cute game pieces. I spent hours on it and I didn't cheat like some people and just cover up the spaces on the Mouse Trap game.
Anyway, why is this book great? It's not dumbed down at all for its readers. O'Brien is unafraid to use phrases his intended audience won't be familiar with. Instead, he incorporates the meanings into the characters' speech. For instance, the owl tells Mrs. Frisby to go to the lee side of the stone. Despite not knowing what that is, she agrees. A couple pages later, she asks the crow and he explains. This is reassuring to a young reader, because now s/he is on the same level as Mrs. Frisby.
All in all, it's a great book to read and will cause you to empathize with the anthropomorphized rodents...just not real ones.