"The Indian in the Cupboard" by Lynne Reid Banks is a popular novel for elementary school classrooms. Many teachers will read it out loud to students or use it in literature circle groups. Here is some information to guide you through the novel.
Summary of Novel
Omri, who lives in London, England, discovers that he has a cabinet with a key that can bring plastic figures to life. He brings a plastic Indian to life named Little Bear who lived during the 1800s. His friend, Patrick, discovers the magic of the cupboard and brings to life a cowboy named Boone. The two little men, of course, fight; Little Bear wounds Boone with an arrow.
The boys think they can bring a World War I medic to life, but then the key to the cabinet goes missing. Without the key, they can't bring figurines to life. Add to this already serious problem of Omri's brother's pet rat, and there's a race to find that missing key. When the key is discovered, the men are saved from the rat, and Boone is patched up. Little Bear then demands that he needs a bride, and so Omri brings to life Bright Stars before he sends them all back to their own time. He also gives his mother the key, so he is not tempted to bring them back.
Major characters in the book and how each plays an important role:
Omri-- The main character who receives the cupboard for his birthday. He is the first one to discover the magic and bring a figurine to life.
Patrick-- Omri's friend who knows about the magic of the cupboard and brings his cowboy figurine to life.
Gillion-- Omri's brother who has a pet rat
Little Bear-- The Indian from the 1800s whom Omri brings to life with his magic cupboard and key
Boone-- The cowboy that Patrick brings to life once he discovers the magic of the cupboard
Bright Stars-- The bride that Omri brings back for Little Bear whom he wants to marry in a proper tribal wedding.
- Students can choose a character from the story, either Little Bear, Boone, or Bright Stars, and write a diary pretending they are that character. For example, if a student chooses Little Bear for this activity, he could write about when he first came out of the cupboard, how he felt when he wounded Boone, and why he is demanding a wife. Ask children to see the world through the character's eyes and write about it.
In writing journals, students can answer this question in a complete paragraph or more: If you had a magic cupboard, what would you bring to life and why? Before students answer this question, discuss with them the moral issues and responsibliites of bringing something or someone to life in the cupboard.
This is one of the favorite Indian in the Cupboard activities: Students enjoy watching the movie after they read the book. Then they like to compare and contrast the book and movie and discuss or debate which one they prefer and why.
While doing Indian in the Cupboard activities, students can also answer questions in reading response journals or in a class discussion:
- Why doesn't Omri tell anyone for a while about bringing Little Bear to life?
- When one of the little men gets hurt, how do they get medical attention?
- Should Omri have told Patrick about the magic of the cupboard?
- What problems does Patrick cause by brining Boone to life?
- Who is more resonsible with the magic of the cupboard--Patrick or Omri? Why?
- Does Omri make the right decision at the end of the novel to bring a bride to life for Little Bear? Why or why not?
- Why does Omri give his mother the key at the end of the novel?
- What do you think of the relationship between Little Bear and Omri? How do they treat each other? Are they friends?
The Indian in the Cupboard: A Guide
This is a fantastic novel for young adults. Often assigned for school reading, these study guides and analysis will help you understand the book.
- Help Your Grade School Child Study the Indian in the Cupboard: Chapter Summaries
- The Indian in the Cupboard: Characters & Study Questions, Grades 3-5