Critique for -

Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
The series includes - The Indian In The Cupboard, The Return of the Indian, The Secret of the Indian, The Mystery of the Cupboard, and The Key to the Indian.

The main character Omri, is given a toy Indian. The toy comes alive and the reader finds his name is Little Bear, a name that would be demeaning of a man in a warrior society. Little Bear is not characterized, either in illustration or text as an authentic Native American. He is but a literary character to add sensationalism and suspense to a children's story. Supposedly - Iroquois, the author missed his home location by a few hundred miles and dressed him as a plains Indian chief in an eagle feather headdress. He was place in a tipi instead of a longhouse, and given a horse, which were unknown to eastern tribes. In fact they didn't make it to Kansas and the Cheyenne until 1745.

Little Bear as a character is placed in a situation of weakness with a white child that didn't want him, wants to kill him, and has total dominant power over him. This is an imperialistic view that considers contact with white people as beneficial and necessary for native people to have a "better" life. He is considered a toy, an Indian, and even after he is found to be certainly human he is never considered an equal of the main character.

He is manipulated by a white child. Portrayed as primitive, illiterate, simple, and naive with his actions and dialect of grunts and phrases - "I help... I go... Big hole. I go through... Want fire. Want make dance. Call spirits." ... Which are not appropriate representations of any human culture in the world in the last hundreds or maybe thousands of centuries.

There are graphic battle scenes that describe Indians with the following -
... his face, in the torchlight, was twisted with fury.
... under the shaven scalplock, the mindless destructive face of a skinhead just before he lashed out...
... the Algonquin licked his lips, snarling like a dog...
... their headdresses... even their movements... were alien.
... their faces... ...were wild, distorted, terrifying masks of hatred and rage.

The book continues to reinforce historically false ideas with a modern day character that responds to American Indians with phrases like - ... I'll be jiggered... A bloomin' Indian! ... ... This is a rum dream.

Children's books, like this, do real damage to Indian children by refusing to understand, listen, and accommodate their heritage. It marginalizes Indians and gives non-Indian children a false sense of superiority.

This series of books is not acceptable as required reading in elementary schools or as a read-aloud.

Dr. Robert Sweetland's Notes ©