Plot summary: It’s Omri’s birthday, and he receives his much desired skateboard and helmet, as well as a plastic Indian figurine from his friend Patrick and an old medicine cabinet from his older brother. Omri isn’t too thrilled about the Indian or the cabinet, but he soon changes his mind when he wakes up the next morning and finds that the Indian, who he had put in the cabinet the night before, has come to life! Omri soon learns that the Indian’s name is Little Bear and that he is from the Iroquois tribe. Little Bear demands food, fire and a blanket, and Omri soon finds himself caring for the feisty but kind miniature warrior. Omri decides to try bringing other figurines to life to keep Little Bear company, including a plastic horse, a World War I army medic named Tommy, an Indian chief, and a cowboy named Boone. Many adventures ensue, including a tussle between Little Bear and Boone and a dangerous situation with a pet rat on the loose. Can Omri keep his new miniature friends safe?
Review: This novel takes a different twist on the classic “toys come to life” concept with wonderful results! The concept of the figurines coming to life in the cupboard is simple but very delightful as well. Readers will definitely enjoy Little Bear’s personality, especially when he stabs Omri in the hand with his miniature knife. Discovering what Omri will bring to life, and what mishaps will certainly ensue as a result, will keep tweens turning the pages quickly. Also included in the story are some deeper concepts about friendship, especially between Little Bear and Boone who are, at first, quick to personify the “cowboys vs. Indians” concept. Readers will likely be so enchanted by this first installment, they will want to quickly pick up the next novels in Banks’ best-selling series. Overall, The Indian in the Cupboard is a very enjoyable, entertaining and timeless tale.
Reading level: Grades 4-7
Similar titles: Other titles in the Indian in the Cupboard series by Lynne Reid Banks.
Personal thoughts: I adored this novel as a child, and was so excited to pick it up again as an adult. There is something simple but enchanting about Omri’s adventures with his miniature friends. I really enjoyed seeing how Omri took care of the tiny people, and especially loved Little Bear’s antics, like building a long house and stabbing Omri in the hand. I think this is a true classic that is not going anywhere. I have and will continue to recommend this book to tweens, especially reluctant readers who will enjoy its fast and interesting pace.
Themes: Toys coming to life, Indians, cowboys, imagination.
Awards/Reviews: Considered a classic piece of children’s literature.
Series Information: First book in Indian in the Cupboard series by Lynne Reid Banks.
Omri – A tween boy who receives an old medicine cabinet and a plastic Indian figurine as gifts on his birthday. Much to his surprise, the Indian comes to life after Omri locks it in the cabinet.
Patrick – Omri’s best friend who gives him the Indian figurine. Omri shares the secret of the cupboard with him.
Little Bear – The human form of the plastic Indian figurine. He is a ferocious but kind Iroquois warrior.
Boone – The human form of the plastic cowboy figurine.
Annotation: What would you do if you could make toys come to life by putting them in a magical cupboard?