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*The Sixty-Eight Rooms* by Marianne Malone, illustrated by Greg Call- young readers fantasy book review
Also by Marianne Malone:

Stealing Magic: A Sixty-Eight Rooms Novel

Also illustrated by Greg Call:

Stealing Magic: A Sixty-Eight Rooms Novel
The Sixty-Eight Rooms
by Marianne Malone, illustrated by Greg Call
Ages 9-13 288 pages Random House February 2010 Hardcover    

Sixth-grade best friends Ruthie and Jack discover a magical key during a school field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago while visiting the Thorne Rooms – 68 miniature replicas of historical rooms created by Narcissa Thorne in the 1930s.

When Ruthie holds the key near the exhibit, she immediately begins to shrink right down to the scale of the rooms (1 foot = 1 inch). Subsequently, she sneaks into a corridor behind the rooms with Jack and is able to enter the rooms. The two friends devise a plan to spend a night in the museum so that they can explore the rooms without fear of being seen.

Not only do the children explore the rooms as tiny people, but they also discover they can visit different periods of history by exiting balconies and back doors of the rooms. They meet a young girl from the late 1700s in France (right before the French Revolution) and a boy and his family from the 1680s in New England (at the time of the Salem Witch Trials).

As the story progresses, the children unlock the secrets of the key – how and why it works, and eventually others who’ve used the key before them. A subplot involving the financial situation of Jack and his mother, an artist, brings them back into 21st-century Chicago as Ruthie’s family tries to secure work for Jack’s mother.

Eventually Jack and Annie discover a photo album linking the magic of the Thorne Rooms with some adult friends from Chicago: an antiques dealer and museum guard. The structured ending happily ties together all loose ends and leaves open an opportunity for a sequel when Ruthie receives a gift of a special antique purse from the antique dealer which feels as if it might have powers of its own.

In clear prose with ample detail in her descriptions of the setting and the exploits of the children, Malone tells a captivating story filled with plenty of fast-paced action and suspense as well as thoughtful friendship. Greg Call’s beautifully illustrated cover will immediately attract readers, while his internal pencil drawings ignite the imagination.

Particularly notable is the author’s insight into the challenges the children face changing sizes and manipulating not only in the miniature world but also in the full-sized world and back in time. Although the plot does slow down at times, for the most part it is straightforward and all events tie together in a logical, exciting manner.

The Sixty-Eight Rooms is a natural step up from Jack and Annie’s Magic Tree House adventures, also a great book to suggest to fans of Blue Balliet’s Chasing Vermeer and E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

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  Kristine Wildner/2010 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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