The Indian in the Cupboard is the latest read aloud in our household. This series, by Lynne Reid Banks, gives my heart warm fuzzies because it was the series I read aloud to my younger brother when he was Mushroom and BalletBoy’s age. I have no idea how I picked it out at the time. All I remember was how much he enjoyed it and what a special bond it was between us at the time. When I was in college and, unbeknown to me, the final volume of the series, The Key to the Indian, came out, he knew about it and gave it to me for Christmas.
Reading it now, I’m struck by the fact that it’s a well-written tale. The premise, which is that a plastic figure comes to life with a magic key, is the sort of thing that many children imagine. Banks’ story, which shows all the moral implications if that could actually happen, introduces some deep thinking about life and respect in a way that I think children can understand. My kids, whose primary knowledge of Native Americans comes from trips to the Museum of the American Indian (they have an excellent cafe, you know), have never encountered the stereotypical concepts that Omri, the main character, needs to have dispelled by knowing “his” Indian, Little Bear. I had to, hesitatingly, explain why Omri got so nervous about scalps.
The kids are enjoying the book and I’m enjoying rereading it for the first time in a very long time. I can tell it’s not that most special read aloud for them (that honor might have already been bestowed anyway). However, it’s a good story and we’ve been imagining what would happen if the Playmobil Romans and knights came to life.