Review: 100 Cupboards

Drumroll please!! Something drastic is going to be happening over here on *Just Footnotes* in the near future . . . well, basically starting today! I’m starting the transition into incorporating kids’ books into my reviews. Today’s book is a chapter book for Young Readers, but there will be a few more kids’ books making appearances now that we are expecting a . . . kid.

Jeremy and I are pretty committed to providing high-quality literature for our children to stretch their minds, imaginations, faith, and understanding of the world. I am sure that we are not the only ones, and so I would like to start including reviews for kids’ books here for any moms and dads out there who are looking for some good books for their kids as well. I’d love any recommendations that you have! My goals in these reviews are going to be to 1) provide a clear glimpse at what to expect in the book, 2) my opinion on the quality of the book, 3) any material to beware of or at least think through before reading with your child, and 4) a few discussion questions to talk through with your child in order to process the book. So, without further ado . . .

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100 Cupboards
289 Pages
Ages 8-12

100 Cupboards, the first book in N.D. Wilson’s series, sets the scene for the adventures that await Henry York. The story starts as Henry arrives in Henry, Kansas, to stay with his aunt and uncle after his parents have been kidnapped during a trip in South America.

Henry had been a . . . sheltered boy. He’d never learned to play baseball, and had been instructed by his parents to wear a helmet during gym class. He definitely experienced a bit of culture shock to see how kids lived in Henry, Kansas. He had his first taste of soda, his first experience with a pocketknife, and his made his first friends who wanted to hit a baseball with him in the hot summer afternoons.

But something else Henry experienced was something that was definitely not common to Kansas. One night, as he lay in his stuffy attic bedroom, dozing off, he heard some tapping, and then felt plaster begin to fall on him in his bed. He popped up, curious to see what was causing the plaster to fall. Over the course of the next few nights, and with the help of his middle cousin, Henrietta and their secretive late night plots, they worked to uncover an entire wall filled with eclectic cupboards – all different shapes, sizes, and materials. Henrietta immediately (and correctly) deduced that they were magic of some sort, though she had know idea how to use them or what kind of magic might lay in or behind them. Henry on the other hand, started off very skeptically, unsure what to make of the new discovery. It wasn’t long, though, before clues started unraveling, and Henry and Henrietta made a little headway on what exactly the cupboards might mean. Things were progressing, and Henry had laid a few ground rules with Henrietta, when one night, they mistakenly opened the secret passageway, and Henrietta got lost into another world.

Henry was rightfully terrified, and did his best to decipher what other clues were left behind to try and find her. It was not an easy task, and along the way he ended up bringing a boy back from another world by accident. In the end, the entire Willis family – Frank, Dotty, and Henrietta’s two sisters, Penelope and Anastasia – would be involved, along with a neighbor boy, Zeke, in confronting an evil that made its way into Henry, Kansas. Though everything turns out in the end, it is just the beginning of something much larger that is going to take place in the worlds of the cupboards.

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I had read this book a few years ago, and decided to re-read it, in anticipation of reading it to Bug when they get here. {I know, we’re a bit ambitious in our baby books. But I figure I might as well enjoy the stories we read them while their still too little to understand!} I really like this story. I love how imaginative and different it is. I always fear when I pick up a book that has any similarities to other books I like that it will be a rip-off or just a shadow of the other book. In this case, I had worried that there would be a bit too much Narnia in this book, but there definitely is not. N.D. Wilson has done a masterful job of creating a new world and a new way of accessing and traversing the worlds. You definitely get a taste for it in the first book, and I know more is to come in the following two. {I’ve also already read those, but a couple of years ago.}

The one caution I would raise for some parents is the fact that the book is very ‘magical’. I am very pro-magic for kids {you should be seeing a post on this in the next week}, so in my mind, it is completely suitable for kids, but I know that some parents are of the opinion that magic is detrimental for kids, and therefore try to avoid it. If you are one of those parents, then I would not recommend this book for you. The one other thing that I had forgotten about this book is that the villain, the character that embodies evil in the story, is quite grotesque and perhaps a bit scary for young kids. I don’t think she necessarily will be for all children, but it is just another caution to raise. Otherwise, I believe this is a great story for kids.

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Discussion Questions:

  1. Henry often blames others when he is frustrated about something. Why do you think he does this? Can you think of any Bible stories that have a similar idea?
  2. How do we see Henry show love in this story? Are there any times when he doesn’t show love? Why do you think he acts this way?

{Hopefully, I’ll get better at pulling out discussion questions from stories. Bear with me, and we’ll grow together!}

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Did your kids like the story?

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