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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the "100 Cupboards" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

When his travel-writer parents are kidnapped in Colombia, 12-year-old Henry York takes a bus to Kansas to stay with Uncle Frank, Aunt Dotty and cousins Anastasia, Penelope and Henrietta. Shortly after Henry's arrival, something begins to break through the plaster of his attic room wall. Chipping away at the cracked plaster with a pocket knife, Henry discovers the wall is covered with 99 cupboard doors. They're all different sizes and made from unique materials. The wall also includes a couple of old brass knobs etched with letters, symbols and Roman numerals. Henrietta, the curious and fearless middle cousin, tries to help Henry discover the secrets of the old cupboards.

Henry's room isn't far from Grandfather's. Grandfather died two years earlier, and the keys to his locked room have since been misplaced. Now Dotty wants to use the extra space. Frank tries everything from an axe to a chainsaw, but he's barely able to damage the door, let alone open it. Even a locksmith can't find a way in.

Henry begins receiving threatening, cryptic letters from someone behind one of the cabinets, accusing him of unbinding long-defeated evils. In one particularly dark cupboard, Henry and Henrietta find a skeleton key and discover that it unlocks Grandfather's bedroom door. In Grandfather's room, they find journals containing facts about each cupboard and what is on the other side. They also find lists of combinations. Turning the brass knobs will allow them to travel to different cupboard worlds through a larger cupboard in Grandfather's room. Henry learns the travel writers are his adoptive parents; he actually arrived through one of the cupboards when he was very young.

Henrietta ventures through Grandfather's secret cupboard alone. She follows a man who has been using the cupboard portal and who sometimes lives in Grandfather's room. Henry sets numerous combinations on the brass knobs in an effort to find her. Frank and Dotty discover the kids have found the cupboards and are traveling through them. Dotty tells Anastasia and Penelope how their father arrived through the cupboards from another world when he was a young man (similar to Henry's arrival).

Henry and Henrietta are reunited in a cupboard world where the witch-dogs, servants of a witch-queen named Nimiane, are causing havoc. Back in Grandfather's room, Nimiane has come through the cupboards and has injured both Frank and Dotty. A neighbor boy arrives and knocks out the witch with a baseball bat. When Henry and Henrietta return to Grandfather's room, the children decide to get rid of the unconscious witch by shoving her back through the cupboards. A winged creature with characteristics of a basset hound and rhino (called a raggant) comes through. Frank says raggants are often sent to find someone, and this one was clearly sent for Henry. Henry receives another threatening letter concerning the evil he has unleashed by allowing Nimiane to roam the cupboards. Elsewhere, Nimiane prepares for more mischief.

Christian Beliefs

Frank says "Lord, forgive me," as he prepares to kick down a door.

Other Belief Systems

Riding in the back of a truck for the first time, Henry prepares himself for a "spiritual experience." He finds magic cupboards that allow people and objects to be transported to different times and places. A man in another land asks Henrietta if she has the second sight. A boy who sees Grandfather pass through into his world thinks Grandfather is a sorcerer. Nimiane, the Witch-Queen of Endor, samples people's blood and uses evil curses and magic. She says Henry's blood is strong and will strengthen her. In another land, a cat leaps into a woman's arms and their minds become one.

Authority Roles

Henry's parents never told him he was adopted. They gave him intellectual items rather than toys, made him wear a helmet in PE and generally left him with nannies or at boarding schools. He doesn't miss them while in Kansas under the kind, fun and more permissive eyes of Uncle Frank and Aunt Dotty. Frank works alongside Henry, talks to him and encourages him at baseball. Uncle Frank doesn't stop Henry from exploring the cupboards, even though he's well aware of the kind of danger within them.


After being attacked by the witch, Frank and Dotty are unconscious and Frank bleeds a lot. Zeke kicks the witch's cat to herd it out the door, then tosses it off the porch with his foot. The witch says she will slice off Zeke's finger, or worse, for torturing her cat. Zeke smacks the witch in the temple with a baseball bat. Henry inadvertently cuts off the hand of someone who is trying to come through a cupboard.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Smoking: Dotty allows Frank to smoke one cigarette a day.

Drinking: Frank sips a beer at a barbecue.

Theft: Grandfather steals books from a library in another world.

Lying: The family lies to the police about what happened in their home with the witch and the magic cupboards.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12


N.D. Wilson






Record Label



Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc.


On Video

Year Published



Book Sense Children's Pick List, 2008


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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