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As a parent, you want to be able to help your child with projects and homework. But finding the time to understand the information you need to help them is difficult. The Indian in the Cupboard is a book that can be equally enjoyed by adults and children, but you may not have the time to read it completely. This Indian in the Cupboard summary by chapters will help you understand the main points of the book so that you can assist your child with a project, book report or to check for reading comprehension.
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Chapter 1 “Birthday Presents"
It is the main character Omri’s birthday and he receives the skateboard and helmet he has dearly wanted. But his best friend Patrick disappoints Omri by giving him a secondhand plastic Indian. The two boys had often played with their assortment of plastic action figures but now were growing tired of them. That’s why the present was a small disappointment. Omri’s brother, short on money, gives him an old medicine cabinet that he finds in the alley. That gift wasn’t so bad. Mother finds a key to fit it and Omri plans to hide his treasures inside. He locks the toy Indian inside right before he drifts off to sleep. In the morning he discovers that the Indian has come to life! When Omri tries to pick him up he stabs him with his miniature knife! Omri quickly decides not to tell anyone about this, just in case he was dreaming. The Indian is left in the cupboard.
Chapter 2 “The Door is Shut"
An argument with his brothers at breakfast makes Omri forget about the Indian until he sees Patrick at school and Omri is tempted to tell him what happened with the plastic Indian. Silently Omri worries that the Indian may have died while spending the day in the locked cupboard with no food or water. After school, Omri races home and discovers that the Indian is plastic again but in a different position than before. He holds the Indian for a while and returns him to the cabinet while he has supper. He can’t eat and his parents think he is sick and send him to bed. As he crawls into bed, he hears scratching in the cupboard, opens it and discovers the Indian is alive again! And the Indian is feisty! He makes demands for food, fire and a blanket. Omri struggles to find the appropriate food and utensils to adapt to a miniature Indian. Their conversation is comical. Omri finds out that the Indian’s name is Little Bear and he is an Iroquois brave, the son of a chief and he lives in a longhouse, not a teepee!
Chapter 3 “Thirty Scalps"
Omri and Little Bear learn more about each other. The Indian finds out that Omri’s house is in England. He tells Omri that he fought with the English against the French. Iroquois Indians and English helped each other. England joined the Iroquois against the Algonquin Indians. Little Bear describes the French soldiers that he scalped. Omri again decides not to tell any adults about this because they might turn Little Bear into a science experiment. Although Little Bear says that Iroquois Indians walk, Omri puts a plastic horse into the cupboard, turns the key and the horse becomes real. Omri puts the Indian and the horse in a box and takes them outside.
Chapter 4 “The Great Outdoors"
Omri, Little Bear and the horse are careful outside but get some exercise. Then Omri needs to get ready for school. On the return trip to his room, the horse kicks Little Bear and injures his leg. Omri has no medical supplies small enough to help Little Bear. Searching in his collection of plastic action figures, Omri finds a World War I army medical orderly. He puts him in the cupboard and the figure becomes real.
Chapter 5 “Tommy"
Tommy, the army orderly, helps Little Bear after Omri convinces him that he is just having a dream. Afterward, Omri decides that things were getting too complicated and he turns Tommy back to a plastic figure. Then Omri gathers supplies outside so that Little Bear can build a longhouse.
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Chapter 6 “The Chief is Dead, Long Live the Chief"
At school, Omri checks out a book about Iroquois Indians. At lunchtime, he sneaks away from school to a store to buy a plastic Indian figure of a chief. The chief has a bow and arrow for Little Bear. When Omri turns the plastic chief into a real Indian the shock kills the old man. Despite Omri’s objections, Little Bear takes the chief’s cape, headdress, bow and arrow. Father discovers that Omri has taken things from the green house (which Omri used for the Indian) and Omri must rush to the store to replace the items.
Chapter 7 “Uninvited Brothers"
At the store, Omri runs into Patrick. All along Omri had been dropping hints about having a real Indian but he would not allow Patrick to see him. Now Patrick gives him a toy cowboy and teases Omri that now he can play with real cowboys and Indians. Omri finally agrees to let Patrick come home with him. When they get to his room, Omri discovers that his brothers are in his room.
When looking for their pet rat, they discover the intricate miniature longhouse that they assume Omri built. After getting rid of the brothers, Patrick and Omri find Little Bear and the horse hiding under the bed. Patrick is excited that the plastic figures are real and impulsively wants to change more figures into real ones. It takes some time for Patrick to realize that these are real humans and not just wind-up toys. After watching and back and forth conversation with Omri, Patrick abandons the idea of turning all the plastic figures into real people. They rig up a miniature fire pit for Little Bear to use for cooking. Patrick finally asks for just one live figure of his own.
Chapter 8 “Cowboy!"
Patrick decides that he just has to have at least one of these miniature people. The boys verbally and physically struggle and step on the fire pit by accident and Little Bear is outraged. Omri goes downstairs to get something for Little Bear to eat and while he is gone, Patrick puts a plastic figure into the cupboard and produces a cowboy and horse. Omri warns him to be careful but Patrick grabs the cowboy and gets shot in the cheek by a tiny gun. Omri convinces Patrick not to take the cowboy home but agrees to bring him to school in the morning.
Chapter 9 “Shooting Match"
Making sure the two men, cowboy and Indian, are safely separated and asleep, Omri goes to bed. At dawn, Omri wakes up to the sound of fighting between cowboy and Indian. They have gotten out of their barriers and are having a gun/bow and arrow fight. Finally Omri must scoop Little Bear up to protect both men. When Little Bear learns that Omri is taking the cowboy to school, he wants to go, too.
Chapter 10 “Breakfast Truce"
Omri cooks breakfast and the two tiny men agree to a truce so they can eat. He makes them wash up first. After eating another fight begins but Omri interrupts it by scooping them up and putting them in separate pockets to go to school.
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Chapter 11 “School"
At school, a girl notices that Omri has passed something to Patrick and she makes a big deal out of it. Finally they get in the building safely. The tiny men had both been lonely and afraid in the dark pockets of each owner and want to be in the same pocket. So Omri takes their weapons away and puts both men in his pocket.
Chapter 12 “Trouble with Authority"
After lunch Patrick has both men in his pocket but gets shoved and falls down. Omri is so worried that Little Bear will be hurt. Omri and Patrick argue. Patrick disappears and returns to class late. Again the boys argue and are sent to the headmaster’s office. Patrick is prepared to spill the secret to the headmaster but Omri jumps on him. Omri gets taken from the headmaster’s office and Patrick is left alone and shows the headmaster the contents of his pocket.
Chapter 13 “Art and Accusation"
The headmaster staggers out of the office, claims he is sick and leaves, so Omri is sent back to class. He takes the Indian and cowboy away from Patrick. To keep them busy, he gives Boone, the cowboy, paper and a pencil and Boone draws an amazing miniature picture of the main street in his hometown. The art teacher is speechless when she views it with a magnifying glass. The bell rings before Omri has to explain. The boys go to the store to get a “wife" for Little Bear.
Chapter 14 “The Missing Key"
When the boys get home the cupboard is missing! Omri’s brother has taken it because he blames Omri for taking his shorts. The cupboard is returned but the key is missing. The boys go on a frantic search to find the key to no avail. They sit down to watch a western on television and, imitating the movie, Little Bear shoots an arrow and seriously wounds Boone.
Chapter 15 “Underfloor Adventure"
Omri realizes that the rat, who has hidden himself under the floorboards in his bedroom, must have taken the key. They pull up the carpet and floorboard and a tense situation ensues. They send Little Bear down the hole in the floor. He retrieves the key and climbs out of the hole just in time before the rat reaches him. The boys use the key to bring Tommy, the army medic back to life to care for Boone. When Boone begins to feel better he and Little Bear begin to argue again. Omri says he wants them to go through a ceremony to be blood brothers so they will stop fighting.
Chapter 16 “Brothers"
As promised, Omri makes a wife come alive for Little Bear and they want to have a wedding feast. Omri decides that he needs to turn the miniatures back into plastic so that they can return to their own lives. They have the blood brother ceremony. Sadly they put the cowboy, horses, and both Indians in the cupboard. Just before the door closes, Omri and Little Bear become blood brothers. Sadly Omri and Patrick now have the plastic figures on the shelf and the cupboard is empty. Omri gives the key to his mother but keeps the cupboard…just in case.
Help Your Grade School Child Study the Indian in the Cupboard: Chapter Summaries
This is a fantastic novel for young adults. Often assigned for school reading, these study guides and analysis will help you understand the book.