Henry York has descended on Henry, Kansas to stay with his aunt, uncle, and three cousins until the situation with his parents can be sorted out — they were kidnapped while bicycling through South America but Henry is sure it is only a matter of time before they are randsomed and returned home. Before arriving in Kansas, Henry lived a somewhat sheltered and pragmatic life, one that did not leave much room for imagination, but not long into his stay in Kansas Henry’s feeble imagination is greatly tested. One night Henry awakes to find plaster on his face and two knobs sticking out of his wall. The removal of more plaster reveals that the knobs are attached to a cupboard but that’s not the only cupboard under the plaster, in fact there are 99 cupboards total. Henry thinks the cupboards might hold socks or maybe fountain pens. His cousin Henrietta thinks the cupboards hold maps or books leading to ancient cities. Henrietta is closer to the truth. Henry and Henrietta discover that the cupboards are portals that lead to different worlds. As the cousins begin to explore the worlds of the cupboards strange things begin to happen and danger lurks in the dark waiting to pounce.
How to describe how I feel…: I was at a loss as to how to put in words my feelings for this novel until I skimmed a review on amazon that gave me a jump start (thank you Noel, whoever you are). Here are two reasons directly from the book as to why I liked 100 Cupboards:
1. A little background for this one — the door to grandfather’s room has been stuck closed for two years and Aunt Dotty is getting fed up. Uncle Frank’s finally determined to get it open without calling in the town locksmith. “Today is the day, Henry. I can feel it. I never told your aunt this, but my favorite book’s in there. I was reading it to your grandfather near the end. It’s been due back to the library for awhile now, and it’d be nice to be able to check something else out” (pg 63). I liked this quote for what it was — it made me laugh — but it possibly takes on different meaning when the reader learns a bit more about Uncle Frank near the end of the book.
2. “He didn’t know what kind of wood it was, but then, nobody in Kansas would have. There were only two people alive who would recognize the wood in that door. One was a man living in a run-down apartment in a bad part of Orlando. He would have recognized it and then tried to find something strong to drink, because he very much wanted to believe that most of his childhood had not actually happened” (pg 46).
There are plenty of wonderful examples of N. D. Wilson’s writing style and his creativity, these are just two that stuck with me. Wilson’s talent as a storyteller is what really drew me into this book.
Character commentary: I have to say that I didn’t exactly like all of the characters, though this in no way deterred my love for the book. I really related to Henry, who can be timid, uncertain, a scaredy-cat, or simply cautious depending on your take. For similar reasons I liked Penelople, who believed in letting people have their secrets and doing as your told. I think other readers will relate to Henrietta and Anastasia. Henrietta is, in many ways, the opposite of Henry. She is willing to throw caution to the wind and worry about the consequences later. While she gathers information faster she also brings about some scary things. I wanted to yell at her sometimes. Anastasia is similar. She always wants to poke her nose where it doesn’t belong and she is horrible at following any kind of direction, but she is the youngest so for her it was understandable. What I really liked about the characterizations was that they were all real people with very different personalities. That’s why I almost enjoyed my annoyance with Henrietta and Anastasia; I could imagine them as real children I would meet while working in the library who aren’t bad people but do things that I don’t necessarily like.
My fav. thing: THE COVER! How awesome is the cover! I love the dark coloring but how you can see the intricacies of the different cupboards. Plus, those golden eyes peaking out at you–creepy! I also love the map found at the beginning of the book of all the cupboards, numbered, with annotations as to where they lead. Fun!
What’s next: For me, it’s Leepike Ridge, N. D. Wilson’s first book, which has a shocking 32 five-star reviews out of 35 total reviews on amazon (so far). Then it’s awaiting the second book in the 100 Cupboards trilogy, Dandelion Fire, whose cover is not nearly as cool, I mean, get that kid’s head out of my way I want to see the cupboards!