The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

Goodreads: The Sixty-Eight Rooms
Series: Sixty-Eight Rooms #1

Summary: The Art Institute of Chicago houses a collection known as the Thorne Rooms—sixty-eight miniature replicas of period rooms.  On a field trip to the Institute, sixth graders Ruthie Stewart and Jack Tucker find a magical key that allows them to shrink in size and explore the miniatures.  Their discovery not only leads to adventure, but also helps them to bring some magic back into their lives of their friends and neighbors.  Followed by Stealing Magic.

Review: The Sixty-Eight Rooms is a story driven not by plot but by the promise of adventure.  No villain threatens the safety of the protagonists, no quest demands their attention.  In fact, very little happens either to impede the explorations of Ruthie and Jack or to place them in danger.  Their book is the one every parent would wish their children into, if they had to choose.  The wonder of the Thorne Rooms proves the factor that grips the attention of the readers.

The book will surely resonate the most with those who have had the opportunity to see the Thorne Rooms in person, but Malone provides enough description to allow her readers to imagine them.  Miniature replicas are, of course, magical by themselves and Malone works with the recognition that those who view them often cannot help but wonder what it would be like to be in them, to live in them.  Her book finally gives them the opportunity to travel through each perfect room, reveling in the detail and pretending that they have truly entered another place and time.  The combination of everyday life experiences with the fantastic is what makes her book truly magical.

The book cunningly serves as more than entertainment, however.  The adventures of Ruthie and Jack prove great a great inspiration for children to learn more not only about the Thorne Rooms, but also about the historical periods that they represent.  At the back of the book, Malone helpfully provides a web address where her audience can view pictures of the collection.  Viewing the real rooms, even if online, helps readers relive the magic and bring it to life.

Though not action-packed, The Sixty-Eight Rooms proves a light, entertaining read.   Children will probably relate to the protagonists, who see themselves as ordinary and wish something exciting would happen to them.  Malone shows them that magic awaits around every corner.

Published: 2010

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2 thoughts on “The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, at first I had trouble pinpointing why this book seemed different from some of the other middle-grade ones I’ve been reading lately, and then I realized that it probably works much better for its intended audience. It was good, but I was baffled because I kept expecting something really bad to happen and I was waiting for some big climatic moment. Then it struck me that Malone had no plans for any of that–and then it struck me that this wasn’t actually a problem. If I were in the targeted age range, I’d be in love with this adventure simply because that’s what it is–an adventure. I wouldn’t be confused because the generic dangers were late arriving; I’d just be enjoying a good story. I still enjoyed it, but, yes, definitely–I would have loved it some much more as a kid. I just need to find the sequel now.


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