100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson is an enthralling children’s fantasy, with a great mixture of humor, adventure, and scary moments. I read this aloud to my four kids (Natalie, 12; Noah, 10; Jonathan, 9; and Josiah, 7) and we all loved it – and were on the edge of our seats during the final chapter.
Henry is 12 years old, and his parents have been kidnapped. He hopes they get home safe, but meanwhile, he’s enjoying his stay with his Uncle Frank and Aunt Dotty and their three daughters Penelope, Henrietta, and Anastasia on their farm in Henry, Kansas. Henry’s parents were extremely over-protective (they sent him to boarding school with a helmet to wear during P.E.), but Henry’s Uncle Frank believes in letting boys be boys, and Henry is thoroughly enjoying the newfound freedom of a pocket knife and learning to play baseball – without a helmet.
One night, as Henry is sleeping in his bed in the attic, a piece of plaster falls on top of him. He inspects the wall, and finds a small cupboard door under the plaster. Over the next several nights, Henry removes all the plaster from the wall and discovers 99 small cupboard doors. As he continues to investigate, he learns that each door leads into a different world. One of these worlds seems strangely familiar, while another is downright meancing. Of course, these doors are tiny, so there isn’t a way to actually visit any of these places – or is there?
This is a great read-aloud – I enjoyed it as much as the kids did. It had a great balance of fantasy and adventure and Henry learning how to be in a family. My only complaint is that some of the descriptive metaphor was a bit over-blown, resulting in my having to stop reading and explain something in response to the puzzled looks I was seeing in my younger two boys’ eyes. I also wish the author had more fully addressed the issue of Henry’s parents – what happened to them, and why Henry doesn’t miss them.
After finishing this book, we knew it had to be the first in a series. We will be reading book two very soon, because the kids can’t wait to find out what happens to Henry and his new family.