I've been trying to find some new book ideas for my 8yo boy to read. He's currently slogging away through the 5th Harry Potter book, so I've been trying to find some shorter lighter reads for him. The Indian in the Cupboard by Banks is a delightful tale of a nine year old boy name Omri who receives for his birthday a plastic Indian from his best friend and an old discarded medicine cupboard from one of brothers. His mother just happens to have a key that works the lock, so he decides to place the Indian in the cupboard for the night. The cupboard door has not been closed long when he begins to hear noises coming from the inside and opens the door to find his plastic Indian is now very much alive. Little Bear is an Iroquois Indian from the time of the early settlement of North America by the French and English. Omri does his best to provide the Indian with the things he needs: a seed tray of dirt on which to build a longhouse, supplies for the longhouse, a horse to ride, food to eat, and even a bow and arrow. At the same time, he is trying his best to keep his secret from his family because he is afraid that Little Bear will be taken away somewhere to be studied if he is found. Keeping the secret becomes more complicated after he shares it with his friend Patrick, who demands his cowboy be brought to life. Now Omri has two men and two horses to care for and keep peace between while at the same time trying to make Patrick understand that the men may be small but that they are real people not simple toys that can be ordered about. Things promise to become even more complicated when Little Bear demands a wife.
I found the story to be well written with an interesting premise. Who hasn't wished at one point or another that a certain special toy or stuffed animal could actually be real? At the same time, I think the book does an excellent job of bringing out the complexities of such an occurrence. A toy that is alive is really no longer a toy. Omri wrestles to balance between not ordering the Indian around and respecting him while at the same time not allowing the Indian to order him around either. He also shows great maturity in realizing that the men are real human being that deserve care and respect. I would recommend it for ages 7 and up.