Book Review: The Indian in the Cupboard

Rating: ★★★★★

When Omri, a young English boy, puts a toy Indian in a medicine cabinet and turns a special key, the Indian magically comes to life.  But the Indian is not merely a toy come to life, but a real person with a history who has been transported into Omri’s time, in miniature form.  Complications arise when Omri’s thoughtless friend puts his toy cowboy in the cupboard to see if they will fight.  The two boys then endanger the small people by taking them to school.

Unlike other fantasies which create an entire magical world, the cupboard is the only magical element in this story.  Because of its grounding in the everyday, this fantasy has a particular charm, as readers might imagine stumbling across just this kind of magic in their own world.  Omri and his friend are ordinary children, and Omri must struggle with having taken on so much responsibility for other human beings.  In the end he realizes it isn’t his place to have such power over their lives, and he uses the cupboard to send them back to their own time.

As a Native American person, I am reflexively suspicious of fiction about Indians, especially in this genre, because it is easy for non-Indians to caricature people whose culture they can’t really identify with.  But while Banks’ development of the Indian’s character might be a little thin, it’s no thinner than that of other characters.  Banks provides enough history of the Five Civilized Tribes, and their role in the French and Indian Wars to demonstrate Little Bull’s humanity, and it is on this basis that Omri comes to respect him.  This is an entertaining, appealing story, in which an immature young man learns to take responsibility and show respect for others.  Parents and teachers ought to be aware, however, that the book contains some mild profanity and several racial epithets.

There are two abysmal sequels available, but I recommend only the original story.

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Publication Information: Banks, Lynne Reid. Indian in the Cupboard, The. Avon. 1983. ISBN: 0375847537.
Categories: 5 Stars, Age 08-12, Books That Build Character, Honey For a Child's Heart
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Posted on July 8, 2010

2 responses to Book Review: The Indian in the Cupboard

  • Cortney says:

    I LOVE THIS BOOK! Fond memories of Mom reading this aloud during our home school days… thanks Shanna for reminding me! I’m going to go get it at the library.

  • anna says:

    Ive never heard of this story before now

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