My mother asked me to read this book after she had picked it up as a possible addition to the school library. She had read it, and was undecided as it its suitability, so then it was my turn.
I can usually rely on her to be a pretty good judge of books, given that she has been working in the school for over thirty years, most of that time amongst books and with readers. I was intrigued to see what had bothered her about it.
Having taken it away on holiday and read it, I have to agree with her that it is quite an odd book indeed, and I’m not sure either. Which doesn’t help either of us much.
100 Cupboards is the first in a trilogy by N. D. Wilson, an American author, who upon further research, seems to have written a great many books for children, none of which are very well known at all in the U.K.
This book tells the story of twelve year old Henry, who has been bundled off to Kansas to live with his aunt and uncle and their family. His parents are travel writers, and have been kidnapped in a far flung country. While they wait for a ransom note, the authorities send Henry away to his family to be out of trouble.
Unfortunately, Henry’s arrival stirs up a whole lot of trouble. His bedroom appears to be magical, and after his first night’s sleep there, the plaster starts cracking off the end wall to reveal 100 small doors, which upon further investigation seem to lead to 100 different places, most of which are magical, some of which are decidedly dangerous.
Then there is the puzzle of dead grandfather’s locked bedroom door to solve, and the fact that someone keeps posting Henry warning letters through the cupboard doors. Letters he doesn’t really understand until it’s too late, and evil is unwittingly unleashed upon the land in the shape of a malevolent witch who wants domination of all the worlds beyond the cupboard doors.
The story is eerie and exciting. In places it is very violent, and the witch and various episodes are rather grim and gory. The story ends in a cliff hanger, so if you’re going to read it, you need to be prepared to get the rest of the series, which luckily is available on Amazon.
Would I stock it in the primary school library? Probably. I might make it available only to older readers who are not going to faint or have nightmares when faced with a little bit of horror. It would be a good book for boys. Henry is a great hero. I like his transformation from slightly nerdy, shy boy, molly coddled by his frankly weird parents, into a surprisingly brave boy who faces danger, and who turns out to be quite good at baseball too.
There are some lovely touches of humour here that lift the darkness of the book, and it certainly makes you want to read on.