© 1980 Doubleday,
In 1995, film-makers at Scholastic introduced movie audiences to the story that is The Indianin the Cupboard, a wonderful example of juvenile fiction from yet another talented British author. As with most movies, there are a number of departures from the original book on which it is based. But the good news is that this story got a wider exposure and children who had not yet read Banks got a chance to find this magical story.
This book is the first of five that were published over a nearly twenty-year period. I will be attempting to read others in the series over the next months when time permits.
Here is the story of a young boy (Omri) who receives a magical medicine cabinet (cupboard in British) for his birthday. Whether the magic is in the cupboard or in the key that Omri’s mother gives to him or in the combination of the two is not revealed in the story, but when used together plastic men come to life—only in miniature.
During the course of a few weeks, Omri learns that it is not really fun to have a “little man” to play with, but more of a responsibility. He learns how fragile people can be in relation to the world in which they live. He learns what it is to care for and be responsible for a human who is at once demanding and spectacular.
Banks is masterful in combining the culture of a British school-boy with real-life historical people such as an Iroquois from the French and Indian War era of the
States and a cowboy from the late nineteenth
century western US. As he learns from his miniature friends, Omri and his best
friend Patrick learn that the western movies that they have watched don’t
depict the life of Cowboys and Indians as accurately as they thought. All Indians
do not ride horses and live in teepees. Not all cowboys are as rough and tumble
as the films have taught them.
This book was lauded by the New York Times and the movie does a pretty good job in retelling the story. As in most instances, there is much more to be enjoyed in the book, but the film is a good companion and even introduction. I recommend both to young readers and families who like magical adventure.
—Benjamin Potter, October 26, 2012