Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Banned Books Week- The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

"It's Omri's birthday, but all he gets from his best friend, Patrick, is a little plastic Indian brave. Trying to hide his disappointment, Omri puts the Indian in a metal cupboard and locks the door with a mysterious skeleton key that once belonged to his great-grandmother. Little does Omri know that by turning the key, he will transform his ordinary plastic Indian into a real live man from an altogether different time and place! Omri and the tiny warrior called Little Bear could hardly be more different, yet soon the two forge a very special friendship. Will Omri be able to keep Little Bear without anyone finding out and taking his precious Indian from him?"- summary from Amazon

I'm so honored that Random House emailed me about participating in their Banned Books Week blog tour, spotlighting some of their own banned books. There was only one book that I'd actually read and was surprised to see it there because I could not remember anything wrong with it when I read it as a child. So while I waited for my copy to arrive, I did some research. What I found were claims about racism in the book, and alleged condoning of white superiority.

First off, the book was written in 1985. Times have changed since then and we've become more of a PC world, where everyone has to walk on eggshells to avoid offending anybody for any reason. Secondly, when Little Bear and Boone are brought to life, BOTH speak in a stereotypical manner, but Omri is also shown over the course of the novel to think past the stereotypes that he's seen in books and movies and therefore learns more about each respective culture. He realizes that they're not so different from him and sees them as equals rather than just toys. We're all just people with the same wants, needs, emotions, etc.

The white superiority claim doesn't really make much sense when reading the book. It does start off with Omri thinking of all the fun he'll have with a live Indian toy, but that is quickly dismissed once Omri realizes that he has to take care of Little Bear (providing food, shelter, and other things). And honestly, with the way Little Bear takes over Omri's life, it's almost the other way around; Omri is actually very subservient to Little Bear in the beginning when they are first getting to know each other. As the book progresses, they (and Boone too) come to a friendship and understanding. Perhaps the claim would also have more legs to it if Omri didn't also turn Boone (the cowboy) and Tommy (a WWII medic) into live people too. He's not just owning an Indian or playing with an Indian; he is equal opportunity with the magical cupboard.

I'm honestly glad that I read the reasons why it has been banned before reading the book because it was hilarious to see those claims demolished with every page I read. I don't know which book those people read (if they read it at all), but it was certainly not the same one I read, which was one of friendship, loyalty (for everyone involved- Omri, his friend Patrick, Little Bear, and Boone), understanding, and respect for all people, no matter the race (or size).

Have any of you read The Indian in the Cupboard, either recently or as a kid? What did you think about it?

I also have a copy to give away of The Indian in the Cupboard as well as a Banned Books Week poster, all courtesy of Random House. The contest is open to US residents. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by Friday, October 9 at 9pm EST, along with your email address.

Check out the rest of the tour-

Sunday, September 27- Good Books and Good Wine + Live to Read0
Monday, September 28- All About Romance + Bookie Moji
Tuesday, September 29- Word Spelunking + The Eater of Books
Wednesday, September 30- The Mod Podge Bookshelf + Curling Up with a Good Book
Thursday, October 1- ExLibris + Alice Marvels
Friday, October 2- Book Chic + Words Sweetheart
Saturday, October 3- YA Bibliophile + The Irish Banana

FTC: Received copy from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

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