Wow, I don’t know where to begin when reviewing The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks. I guess i should first say that overall it is a delightful story. I enjoyed the ending and of course the main character learned a valuable lesson about how to treat people of all sizes and races. That part of the lesson is priceless and worth repeating.
With that said, I am disappointed in the details of the story. I am unsure if the book is a product of the time period (80s) or of the author’s location (UK) or what, but the book is rife with Native American stereotypes. What is interesting about the book is that even though the character Little Bear speaks in stereotypical Indian language, the main character, Omri, is very sensitive to Little Bear’s cultural needs. It’s an interesting study in opposites. Little Bear speaks in clipped English sentences such as “I not small! You, big!” during an introductory conversation with Omri. To be sure, we will never really know how Native Americans spoke during that time period (pre 1800s) but I’m pretty sure that when learning a new language, Indians like Little Bear could use verbs, adverbs and adjectives. If you can learn the language, you can learn to speak it properly, right? And how is it that Little Bear can understand English?
I know that if Little Bear didn’t speak and understand English that there wouldn’t be a story, but if the two struggled to understand each other at first, the story might have been more believable and Little Bear’s stilted embryonic language structure would be more appropriate.
I know this story is popular with the younger set but I struggle to recommend it because of the stereotypes. As you can see from the last book I read about Native Americans, “Part time Indian”, Native Americans speak English very well.
This book is part of my YA 80s challenge, found here.