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Children's LiteratureAGERANGE: Ages 9 to 12.
One magical cupboard would be enough for a fantasy story, but Wilson offers his twelve-year-old protagonist an even hundred. When Henry York comes to stay with his aunt, uncle, and three female cousins in Henry, Kansas, after his parents have been kidnapped while bicycling across South America, he has hitherto "led a life that had taught him not to look forward to anything." But the same dreary landscape that launched Dorothy to Oz here introduces Henry to his uncle's schemes of selling tumbleweeds on E-bay, to the summer joys of sandlot baseball, and to the existence of a wall in his attic bedroom full of mysterious cupboard doors which turn out to be portals across time and space into the fantastic unknown. Wilson is a marvel at crafting delightful sentences, such as "The paint was scum brown, the sort that normally hides at the bottom of a pond, attractive only to leeches and easily pleased frogs." Henry is the perfect unlikely fantasy hero, a boy whose parents made him ride in a car seat until he was nine and gave him a protective helmet to wear in P.E. But it is hard to connect with a boy who asks about his absent parents, "Are they really my parents?" is told, "Nope," and then never asks anything about them again. Henry's journeys through cupboard after cupboard become tedious after a while, with too many magical vistas and villains, and the completely unresolved ending feels more like a cheat than a beckoning to read on through the proposed series. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.