I am a black belt in Taekwondo. By “am,” I mean “was,” as in “I earned my black belt in eighth grade.” And by “black belt,” I mean “zero degree black belt,” which is the lowest possible black belt a person can earn. But I like to toss that sentence—”I am a black belt in Taekwondo”—into conversations with boys of the ten-and-under set, just to see what happens.
I don’t have a lot of currency with boys, after all. As a mother of three daughters, I can throw a mean tea party, tell stories about sweet, talking animals and no bad guys, and please everyone in my house just by putting on a nice dress and some lipstick. I am not adept at talking about football, playing ninjas, or understanding the appeal of wrestling. But I do know how to hold a nunchuck properly and I can still do a pretty decent side kick, so I like to think I’m not a complete dead zone where the boys are concerned.
Likewise, I’m not that great at finding good books for boys to review on this blog, simply because there isn’t much of a demand for them at our house. When I do find a book that I think boys might like I get really excited—and then I second guess myself. I start asking friends if their sons read the book and if so, did they like it? Do boys even like that sort of thing?
But I didn’t even have to ask about this one. I read 100 Cupboards in about two days, got more than a little creeped out, loved it, and knew I’d found a winning book that didn’t center around an unlikely heroine in Victorian dress, a book that would doubtless appeal to boys, their sisters, and their parents.
The premise of 100 Cupboards is straightforward and awesome: while staying with his aunt and uncle after his parents’ mysterious disappearance, Henry discovers a bunch of cupboards hidden beneath the plaster of his bedroom wall, each one leading to a different place including (but not limited to) Endor, Byzanthamum, and Arizona. Adventure ensues.
This is the first of three books, and though I have not read the other two, I am definitely looking forward to reading them. The worlds that N.D. Wilson uncovers are enthralling—I can’t wait to see what else he has hidden away in those cupboards. A word of warning, though: parts of this book are unsettling to say the least, so this may be a bit much for younger kids (or for squeamish older kids). I’d compare the creepiness factor to that of Coraline, if that helps.
But it is an awful lot of fun to read.
This is the rare trilogy that gets better with each book! I finished the third book yesterday, and actually yipped—my husband will vouch for this—”Woo hoo!” at the story’s climax. I may revise my post to reflect this at some point, but for now, know that I recommend not only One Hundred Cupboards but also its sequels, Dandelion Fire and The Chestnut King.
Further Update (9/2017)
ND Wilson wrote a prequel for this series! And it, too, is glorious.
The 100 Cupboards Series
ND Wilson (2008-2011)