At one time or another, all children probably entertain the fantasy of their favorite toys coming to life to play with them — and that’s no doubt why this series of books has been so popular. In the Indian in the Cupboard books, the toys do come to life.
Written by British author Lynne Reid Banks in 1980, the fifth book of the series was published in 1998. Aimed at children 9 and up, in 1995 the book was made into a delightful movie that stayed true to the storyline.
The main character – a young boy named Omri – discovers that an old cabinet, when unlocked with an antique key, has the power to bring small plastic figurines to life. The first toy he puts into the cabinet is a 4 inch tall Indian figure. Omri is shocked when the toy comes out of the cabinet and tells him that his name is Little Bear — and that he’s from the 18th century. Omri’s troubles start after he puts a plastic cowboy into the cupboard and then has to deal with “Boone” trying to kill Little Bear. Boone wounds Little Bear and Omri must bring a plastic WW2 medic to life to save him. After a few near misses including run-ins with an escaped pet rat, the three are sent back to their own time. Omri is so exhausted from trying to take care of his little friends that he gives his mother the key so he won’t be tempted to bring more toys to life. Along the way, Omri grows up and learns about friendship, being responsible for others, and doing what is right.
The four other books in the series are titled: The Return of the Indian, The Secret of the Indian, The Mystery of the Cupboard, and The Key to the Indian.
While the has been some criticism about the author’s portrayal of the cowboy and Indian conflict as cliché, teachers often praise the story for its use of words not seen in books for this age group such as haughtily and lithely.