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The Indian in the Cupboard facts for kids

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For the film based on the book, see The Indian in the Cupboard (film).
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The Indian in the Cupboard
The Indian in the Cupboard.jpg
First edition (UK)
Author Lynne Reid Banks
Illustrator Robin Jacques (UK)
Brock Cole (US)
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Indian in the Cupboard
Genre Children's fantasy
Publisher J. M. Dent (UK)
Doubleday and Company (US)
Publication date
ISBN 978-0-380-60012-0
OCLC 8878954
Followed by The Return of the Indian 

The Indian in the Cupboard is a low fantasy children's novel by the British writer Lynne Reid Banks. It was published in 1980 with illustrations by Robin Jacques (UK) and Brock Cole (US). It was later adapted as a 1995 children's film of the same name. Later books in the series were illustrated by Piers Sanford (later).

The original book was followed by four sequels: The Return of the Indian (1985); The Secret of the Indian (1989); The Mystery of the Cupboard (1993); and The Key to the Indian (1998). All were published by Doubleday Books in hardcover, then by Avon Books, now Harper Collins, in paperback. There have been multiple reprints in various formats, including movie tie-in editions. The publisher recommended reading level is age nine and up.

All the books revolve around a young boy, Omri, who discovers the powers of a magical cupboard. When plastic toys are locked in the cupboard, they become real, living beings, resulting in Omri befriending an 18th-century Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) chief named Little Bear. As the series progresses, Omri and his friend Patrick learn more about the cupboard's powers, including its ability to transport people to and fro through history.

The book has received numerous awards and been both critiqued and praised on its literary merit and has once been recommended reading in school curriculum. In a review of the first book of the series, Kirkus Reviews observed, "The first book had a fine balance between childish desire to play with the tiny figures and awareness that, though small, they were real people who ought not to be so manipulated." The book was reviewed in the 1981 New York Times article "BOOKS: Best For Children" where it was called "the best novel of the year". At one time classrooms and libraries widely accepted the book. The book has been used as part of teaching curricula for children at the novel's reading level.

Plot summary

On Omri’s ninth birthday, his best friend Patrick gives him the disappointing gift of a small plastic Indian figurine. Omri also receives a white metal medicine cupboard from his brother. The only key in the house that fits the cupboard's lock is the key to Omri's great-grandmother's jewelry box. Omri puts the plastic figurine in the cupboard and locks it with the key, only to discover the following morning that the figurine has come to life as a three-inch tall Iroquois Indian man.

Though the tiny man, whose name is Little Bear (Little Bull in some editions), initially believes that Omri is a god, he quickly realizes that Omri is only an ordinary, albeit giant, boy, and proceeds to boss him around. Little Bear explores the house and garden, while Omri provides for Little Bear's needs. Little Bear's rejection of the gift of a tipi (as Iroquois live in longhouses) leads Omri to research more about the Iroquois people, causing him to rethink some of his stereotypical views of American Indians and to realize that Little Bear is a real person with a history and culture. Omri is particularly affected when a plastic figure of an elderly Native American chief dies of shock upon being brought to life. Little Bear, however, claims the old chief's headdress, as he is the only one around to take the title, and becomes more demanding than ever.

Patrick offers Omri a gift of a plastic cowboy so that Omri can play properly with his toy Indian. Omri rejects the gift, which leads to letting Patrick in on the secret. Overwhelmed with excitement, Patrick urges Omri to bring loads of plastic people to life, while Omri protests that the people would be real, not toys to be played with. Nevertheless, Patrick uses the cupboard without Omri's knowledge, bringing to life the plastic cowboy, who turns out to be a man named Boone from an entirely different place and time as Little Bear. Over Omri's objections, Patrick introduces Boone to Little Bear. The two tiny men mistrust one another from the start, with Boone deriding Little Bear as "savage" and "dirty." The antagonism comes to a head when Omri and Patrick introduce the duo to television; when Boone cheers the slaughter of Native Americans in an old Western, Little Bear shoots him in the chest with an arrow.

Little Bear is immediately guilty, but does not know enough medicine to save Boone, while the boys are far too large to help. Omri brings to life the figure of a World War I medic, who turns out to be a man named Tommy from the trenches of France. Tommy, believing that this is a strange dream, saves Boone's life before being transported back through the cupboard. Little Bear continues to treat Boone's injuries, and the two gradually come to trust one another. This incident finally impresses upon Patrick that the tiny people are not toys. Though both boys have become attached to Boone and Little Bear, they agree to return everyone to their own time.

As chief, Little Bear demands a bride. Little Bear chooses from an array of plastic Native American figurines and Omri brings to life an Iroquois woman called Bright Stars (Twin Stars in some editions). The two boys and the tiny people have a final celebration, during which Boone becomes Little Bear's blood brother, before the miniature people are sent home through the cupboard. Each boy keeps the now-plastic image of their friend as a memento, and Omri gives the cupboard's key back to his mother so that he will not be tempted to bring them back.

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