Monday, October 24, 2011

100 Cupboards

100 Cupboards
N. D. Wilson


I was going to wait and review this whole series once I finished it. However, I just finished book 2 and cannot wait any longer to bring them to your attention!! THANKS to Brandy for introducing me to them. WOW.

In this first book of the trilogy, we meet Henry York, nephew to Frank Willis and his cheery wife, Dottie, and cousin to Henrietta, Penelope, and Anastasia. They happen to live, ironically enough, in Henry, Kansas (Henry is from back East). Henry is living with his cousins for the summer; it turns out to be a most interesting summer....
So what does Henry York find out in Henry, Kansas? Well, he learns to play baseball. He learns that his uncle is not from Kansas. He discovers 100 cupboards behind the plaster in his attic room. He discovers a way into the formerly locked and impenetrable door to his deceased grandfather's room. He finds a way into new worlds. He lets loose a witch from another world. And he discovers that he himself might be from another world....

This is the first in a trilogy, so there are many questions raised that aren't fully answered. That being said, I found this to have a very satisfactory ending. I wanted to read book 2 in part because I think Wilson's writing is so amazing. (And book 2: Dandelion Fire is even more well written).

There are no extra words here; 100 Cupboards is finely crafted. I love what Wilson does with tried and true literary devices--they never sound trite or worn out in his hands. I love how he depicts loving families who are still realistic, how he portrays married couples who orbit around each other in their proper place without seeming cheesy, how he crafts his characters, how he creates new worlds that are both imaginative and also not overly detailed--we are given just enough information to be able to follow the story  and grasp the deeper meanings. I found myself rereading paragraphs on occasion when I would start skimming--I can usually skim fairly successfully, but not with Wilson's books. I don't necessarily want to skim, don't get me wrong. I just find myself wanting to read faster and faster while I race to end, desperate to find out what's going to happen next!

But most importantly, Wilson is writing from a Christian worldview. He isn't writing "Christian fiction." He is writing fiction from a Christian perspective--HUGE difference, folks. What we see in his fiction is a terrific portrayal of the elements of the grand narrative of Scripture, a narrative which all great fiction should showcase at least in part--even if the author isn't a believer or isn't aware of it. What is that great narrative? It's the creation-fall-redemption framework of Scripture. In Wilson's work (as in other great Christian authors--Katherine Paterson, GK Chesterton, Madeleine L'Engle, etc.), we see creation (even Henry, KS, fits this), a terrific fall (actually, the release of the witch Nimiane at the unwitting hand of Henry is a remarkable parallel to Adam's original sin, isn't it, in which sin entered our world and corrupted it fully and utterly), and the hope of redemption--that there will be a way to fix this mess with Nimiane. 

Wilson has also written Leepike Ridge.
Book 2 in the series is Dandelion Fire
Book 3 in the series is The Chestnut King

Recommended for upper elementary and up

Things to Note/Discuss
  • There is definitely some violence in this book--it might be too much for the under 10 crowd. Parents will have to check it out. I didn't find it offensive in the least; I rather expect true evil to be fairly violent and disgusting. But, I thought I should mention it.
  • Ask your students/children if they see elements of the creation-fall-redemption framework in this book. This particular book (and the series) is a wonderful introduction to that idea because the elements are so clear.
  • Are Henry and Henrietta being wise? Are they obeying? Do they make good decisions?  Do either of them annoy you at all? (I find them both annoying at times--not because of the way they're written, but because I want to shake them! Shows how much I feel I "know" them :-) ).

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