The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

October is Puzzling 
One of my favorite genres of middle school fiction are the puzzle books. You know, the ones you get to decipher secret clues or codes along with the characters? If you love mysteries or a good guessing game, these are for you!

Ruthie makes an amazing discovery while on a class field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago: the Thorne Minature Gallery. Ruthie can't believe all the intricate details of each room, and is amazed that each room was created to be a historical replica of an actual time and place. Mrs. Narcissa Thorne spent years collecting or commissioning tiny dollhouse sized pieces to fill her rooms. The rooms represent part of Europe back in the time of knights, all the way up to early America.

Jack, who's mother is an artist, has seen the rooms before, but understands Ruthie's fascination with them. The scale is 1 foot to 1 inch, and the tiny clothes, the chairs, the carved baseboards and elaborate miniature art pieces are truly a sight to behold. (Can you tell I've actually been to see them?)

One of the guards notices their interest, and lets Jack and Ruthie take a peek behind the scenes. In the corridor behind the exhibit, Jack finds a beautiful gold key. He decides to follow the "finders keepers" rule, and takes it home. It isn't until later when he shows it to Ruthie that they realize the key is no ordinary key. As soon as Ruthie touches it, she starts to shrink! They experiment with it, and find that only Ruthie shrinks.

They quickly hatch a scheme to use the key to get back into the Thorne Rooms, and explore the rooms. Ruthie can't wait to explore the elaborate settings for herself. Her only reservation is that Jack can't come with her. They hatch a plan to sneak in and stay overnight, only to find that there may be more magic than they first realized!

Another great "I don't know that I'm learning" book, highly recommended.
Instead of a quote, go check out the Thorne Rooms here.
"She stopped and looked at Jack, who gazed back at her as if to say, You need my help for this! He gingerly picked her up between his thumb and first finger and set her down again," (Malone pg. 42, 2010).

If you liked this, check out:

Malone, Marianne. (2010). The Sixty-Eight Rooms. New York, NY: Random House.

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