N.D. Wilson's 100 Cupboards
Book review by Ramona Davis
Plaster, and Cupboards, and Magical Worlds, Oh My!
In a strange twist of fate, 12 year old Henry York is sent to live with his Uncle Frank, Aunt Dotty, and cousins Penelope, Henrietta, and Anastasia on their farm in Henry, Kansas, after his parents are kidnapped while biking in South America. While there, he discovers the joys of childhood by having the opportunity to indulge in hot dogs, sodas, baseball and pocket knives; all things that his overprotective parents (they made him wear a helmet during recess!) never allowed.
Then, one night while sleeping in his attic bedroom, Henry is awakened by tiny bits of plaster that have fallen on him from the wall behind his bed; upon further examination, and a lot of work to remove the plaster, he discovers 99 cupboard doors, each one distinctly different from the other. To top things off, he and his cousin, Henrietta, find out that the cupboards are actually doorways into magical worlds both good...and evil.
Book review - 100 Cupboards
As the story unfolds, Henry finds out that there is another cupboard (cupboard 100) in the room that once belonged to his now deceased grandfather that allows people to travel between worlds. He also uncovers a journal that details grandfather's discoveries about each of the cupboards, and a chart that diagrams what each cupboard contains, including a post office, with warning mail for Henry, and a witch who is trying to gain power to rule the world. Henry also learns that both he and his uncle are from one of the mysterious worlds, and that his kidnapped parents are not his biological parents, but adoptive ones.
What keeps the story going through the incredibly slow first 60 pages, is a cast of quirky main characters. Aunt Dotty is the loving mother hen who makes sure that everyone is well taken care of, always with the air of a smile on her face, acting as if she has not a care in the world. Uncle Frank, on the other hand, appears odd and somewhat eccentric, doing such weird things as collecting tumbleweeds in the back of his pick up, then selling them on eBay for hundreds of dollars a piece. The cousins, Penelope, Henrietta, and Anastasia, are as different as siblings can be, and are reminiscent of the sisters in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
Penelope, the oldest, is the one who always looks after her sisters and has no time for make believe. Anastasia, the youngest, wants to do what the older kids do and be involved in their secrets and plans as much as possible, even if rudeness and eavesdropping are her best weapons to gain her the inclusion she desires. Henrietta, the middle girl, is the adventurous tomboy, and in fact has more curiosity about the cupboards than cautious and fearful Henry does, often pushing his limits of patience when she continually wants to look into the cupboards that are evil.
While reading 100 Cupboards, which engaged me in suspense and mystery once the story picked up, I was reminded of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. What person, young or old, doesn’t love the thought of finding other worlds behind the clothes in a wardrobe closet, or in this case, other worlds in tiny cupboards, behind the plastered wall of an attic bedroom?
Overall, 100 Cupboards was an enjoyable read and I look forward to diving into Dandelion Fire and The Chestnut King, Books Two and Three in the N. D. Wilson Trilogy. A word of caution though, while 100 Cupboards is slated for readers ages 8-12, I would definitely err on the side of the older range; between the imagery of severed limbs and a blood thirsty witch, no matter how endearing the genre has gotten, I feel that it may frighten younger readers more than necessary. Not to mention, hands that grab and drag children into evil magical worlds is rather like finding the boogey man under your bed no matter how old you may be, or what you may believe in.
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