Home > Book, Book Review, Children, Fantasy, Reviews, Young Adult > Book Review – The Sixty-Eight Rooms (The Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventures) by Marianne Malone

Book Review – The Sixty-Eight Rooms (The Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventures) by Marianne Malone

The Sixty-Eight Rooms

Book Description:

Almost everybody who has grown up in Chicago knows about the Thorne Rooms. Housed in the Children’s Galleries of the Chicago Art Institute, they are a collection of 68 exquisitely crafted miniature rooms made in the 1930s by Mrs. James Ward Thorne. Each of the 68 rooms is designed in the style of a different historic period, and every detail is perfect, from the knobs on the doors to the candles in the candlesticks. Some might even say, the rooms are magic.

Imagine—what if you discovered a key that allowed you to shrink so that you were small enough to sneak inside and explore the rooms’ secrets? What if you discovered that others had done so before you? And that someone had left something important behind?

Fans of Chasing Vermeer, The Doll People, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will be swept up in the magic of this exciting art adventure!

The sequel, Stealing Magic: A Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure, was released in January 24, 2012


The Sixty-Eight Rooms  by Marianne Malone offers a pretty irresistible premise for a fantasy/ time travel / adventure story for young readers (Grades 4-6). In her author’s note, Ms Malone explained that she spent a lot of time at the Chicago Art Institute’s Thorne Rooms exhibition when she was very young, and she used to imagine herself inside the miniature rooms. And well, that’s how the idea to write The Sixty-Eight Rooms was born!

While on a class visit to the Thorne Rooms, two 11-year-old kids (Ruthie and her best friend Jack) find a magical key that shrinks them down to a size that allows them to explore the miniature historical rooms. The children find odd items that suggest that others may have made the same discovery before them. Even more amazing, Ruthie and Jack discover that the rooms offer them entry into the worlds of the past for real!

Miniature of a French Salon of the Louis XVI Period - The Thorne rooms - Art Institute of Chicago

Image via Wikipedia

This story appealed to me so much (even though I’m a clear decade beyond the target age group!) – I mean, anybody who has ever played with a doll’s house has fantasized about being miniature-sized, right? Unfortunately, the actual written book fell far short of my expectations. I went from ‘oh WOW’ to ‘b.o.r.i.n.g’ pretty quickly.  I felt too much attention was paid to extraneous details and plot points that detracted from the main story. The result was that too little of the historical miniature rooms ended up being visited by the kids. And even the time travel aspect was sorely lacking as all the kids seemed to do was walk out of the little rooms into gardens or a neighboring house and chat a bit with another young kid or two. How about a bit more conflict, a tad more danger? There was a suggestion of it when the kids walked into the world of the Salem Witch Trials, but that episode was cut short when things were just getting exciting!  I don’t know – I just felt cheated on the ‘adventure’ aspect of the book.

Ruthie and Jack are pretty appealing characters though, very smart and quick-minded and I really liked how their friendship was portrayed. And the few historical rooms that the kids did explore really tickled my imagination (I’d never seen the Thorne Rooms myself), but I’m thinking a museum trip of my own should be scheduled in the near future (or at least a peek at that catalogue)!

To sum it up, The Sixty-Eight Rooms  did not quite live up to its promise, but younger kids who aren’t as demanding about having more ‘adventure’ in their stories might still like this. At the very least, like with me, this book might just spark an interest in an educational museum visit! (which is totally a win-win, right?)

The Sixty-Eight Rooms (The Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventures) by Marianne Malone (with illustrations by Greg Call) from Random House Books for Young Readers is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Hardcover, Paperback and Audible Audio Edition Unabridged.

It is also available as an eBook at B&N and Apple iBookstore.

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  1. tellulahdarling
    March 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    So disappointing when an awesome premise falls short!

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