“The Indian in the Cupboard” by Lynne Reid Banks.

Best for age 9 and up. 181 pages.

Have you ever been disappointed by a birthday present?

Be honest: How would you feel if your very best friend gave you a secondhand plastic Indian toy?

If you admit that that wouldn’t be your favorite all-time present, then you know how Omri, the main character in “The Indian in the Cupboard,” feels when Patrick gives him yet another three-inch-high plastic figure.

The real action in Lynne Reid Banks’s book starts the night of Omri’s birthday, when he puts the tiny Indian inside a mysterious cabinet that his brother gave him and locks it with an ornate old key from his mother.

When Omri wakes up the next morning, he hears tapping . . . from inside the cupboard. What could possibly be making the noise? Oh, just the Indian, still just three inches tall but fully alive — speaking, carrying a knife the size of a tack and introducing himself as Little Bear.

As the story unfolds, Patrick uses the cupboard to bring a cowboy named Boone to the present day as well. Having tiny figures running around the house leads to some pretty funny — and sometimes scary — adventures, including one involving a pet rat.

But this is really a story about friendship and imagination. As much as Omri and Patrick love having mini-playmates, they have to face tough questions about what’s really best for Little Bear and Boone. If you’re a true friend, do you do what’s best for you or what’s best for the other person?

— Tracy Grant