The Indian in the Cupboard

By Lynne Reid Banks (1980)

Twenty years before there was Harry Potter, there was The Indian in the Cupboard – a book series that became a craze in England, thousands of families eagerly awaiting the next installment of what would total a five-book series. That’s a long time ago in the life of an elementary school child, and that makes Lynne Reid Banks’ story a perfect choice for One School, One Book, because today’s generation of families is largely unfamiliar with it.

The Indian in the Cupboard tells the story of a young boy, Omri, whose plastic toy Indian magically comes to life to become a real live Iroquois Indian, three inches tall. Such a premise could turn out silly, but Banks doesn’t play it that way. The story is humorous, active, scary, and wise. Omri quickly learns what it means to become responsible for another creature, one with his own agenda and his own set of values. When a second character – a toy cowboy – comes to life, the plot is off and running.

The Indian in the Cupboard meets all the premises One School, One Book demands. Younger children can follow the action easily as they identify with the various characters, historical and contemporary. Older children get to absorb a little history through a sly story, and also get to grapple with the ethical questions posed to Omri and his friend, Patrick. Parents and teachers are along for the ride as there is plenty to learn, and plenty to enjoy vicariously in this rollicking, sage tale.

(And as it is the first in a five-book series, The Indian in the Cupboard promotes Read to Them’s culture of reading by inviting and encouraging students and families to read on through the series on their own.)