100 Cupboards is another book to clutch to my chest and think, This is why I read.
N. D. Wilson is a magical writer; he uses words like a wizard himself, so when he describes wizardry it sounds eminently believable. And what wizardry! A wall in the attic full of cupboards that all lead to different places, not all of which are in our world. However, they're too small to get through, unless you're a cat, or a letter. Then there's the door to Grandfather's room, that's been locked ever since he died two years ago, and will not open to anything. And there's a cupboard that has a key in it.
Exciting premise, right? Echoes of Narnia, Oz, Wonderland. I love me a good gateway to another world story. But I love that 100 Cupboards is really a book about Henry, a boy who has never done anything dangerous, who ends up in Henry, Kansas, a place for lost things, a place that doesn't flinch. It's also about Henry's cousin Henrietta, who will not ever do what she's told, and his uncle Frank, who seems thin, but isn't, if you know how to look. I loved all of the characters, but I particularly loved Frank. And Henrietta and her sisters are so authentically squabbly and bratty, they were brilliant.
The fantasy elements are developed slowly, with excellent mystery and suspense. Henry stumbles into courage reluctantly, hopefully, sometimes resentfully when Henrietta drags him into it. All along he has his own self-depreciating way of looking at things that's endearing and funny.
I wouldn't call 100 Cupboards a humorous book—it can be quite dark and
occasionally scary—but I was smiling a lot while I read it. Wilson made me laugh out loud sometimes just because of how aptly he describes things. And Frank: everything Frank says or does is completely hilarious, because it's so unexpected.
100 Cupboards has been out for a while, thank goodness. It ends with a lot of unanswered and very intriguing questions, and I'm am delighted to know that the two sequels are written, printed and on my library shelves. I will be fetching them forthwith.
Apple blackberry pie.
Shannon Messenger collects Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts on her blog every week; be sure to check out everyone else's recommendations.