Monday, June 9, 2008

100 Cupboards
By N.D. Wilson
Most enjoyed by 5th graders through 8th graders

Henry, Kansas is a dry, dusty town that time seems to have forgotten. It is to be Henry's summer home when his travel-writing parents are kidnapped on a trip to Columbia. Aunt Dot, Uncle Frank, and their three girls welcome Henry to their farm, a place where Henry can roam free and learn to play baseball, something his over-protective parents won't let him do at home.

Life on the farm is quiet until Henry wakes one morning to find plaster on his forehead and two knobs sticking out of the wall above his bed. Watching the knobs turn, Henry can hear something thump behind the wall. Intrigued, Henry begins to chap away at the plaster, uncovering a small cupboard door. The knobs seem to be dials of some sort. Henry chips away more plaster, revealing a second cupboard door; behind it is not a view of the barn at the back of the house as Henry expects, but the inside of a small, yellow post office. Henry's cousin Henrietta is convinced there is another world behind the door. Together, she and Henry remove all of the plaster, uncovering 99 cupboard doors in all. What could possibly be behind them all? And why only 99? It's such an odd number that Henrietta is sure there must be another cupboard door somewhere in the house, but where? Could it be behind Grandpa's bedroom door, a door that hasn't been opened in two years since Grandpa's death? Would the old man Henry saw leaving the bathroom in the middle of the night know something? The old man who entered Grandpa's bedroom and hasn't been seen since? And what's behind the small, black cupboard door, the one that grabbed hold of Henrietta's arm and wouldn't let it go?

The action in 100 Cupboards unfolds very slowly and deliberately until about the middle of the book, when the pace picks up and you can't put it down. Henry is a nice kid, one you feel a little sorry for because he's been so sheltered and protected by his parents. But he comes out of his shell when he faces the challenge presented by the cupboards. If you're a lover of mystery or fantasy stories, add 100 Cupboards to your reading list. But be warned - the book has a great ending, one a bit creepy for bedtime reading, but it doesn't wrap up all of the loose ends neatly. 100 Cupboards is the first in a new series and after reading this one, I hope the next book is out in time for next summer's reading! You can find 100 Cupboards at the Crystal Lake and Algonquin public libraries.

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