Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Does Your House Have Sixty-Eight Rooms?
Well, mine doesn’t either. But, I know one that does! Carry yourself to Chicago, and then to the Art Institute of Chicago, and then to the exhibit of the “Thorne Rooms”, which is a collection of dollhouse-like rooms that is a permanent part of the collection at the Art Institute. Page 10 of the book describes this exhibit as “better than any crummy dollhouse by far.”
Ruthie and Jack, BFF, and in the same sixth-grade class at one of Chicago’s private schools (Oakton), are the central and most believable characters in this story called The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone. As part of a class visit to the Institute, Ruthie and Jack discover the Thorne exhibit and become enthralled and even entranced by it. The dollhouse includes American and European-themed rooms that portray daily life with extreme detail. Enough detail that, when Ruthie and Jack are transported “back in time”, they even find beds with sheets and blankets, and desks with quill pens and tablets, and more. The children find a key (they snooped behind the exhibit to see its inner workings!) that, when held, will take them on a time-travel adventure beyond anything they can imagine. This key allows them to shrink small enough to sneak inside and explore the secrets of the rooms, as well as become a part of the world of the time. The same key transports them back to the present day.
Other characters in the story are Mrs. McVittie, an antiques shop owner; Mr. Bell, a museum security guard and former portrait photographer; Lydia, Jack’s mom; Claire, Ruthie’s older sister; and Mrs. Biddle, the sixth-grade teacher at the Oakton School.
A quote from the book jacket says “Housed deep within the Art Institute of Chicago, they are a collection of sixty-eight exquisite—almost eerily realistic—miniature rooms. Each of the rooms is designed in the style of a different time and place, and every detail is perfect, from the knobs on the doors to the candles in the candlesticks. Some might even say the rooms are magical.”
Similar in scope and content to Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer, The Calder Game, and The Wright 3; Malone’s Sixty-Eight Rooms is an “I can’t put it down” read! It would make an excellent read-aloud for older elementary students, too.
The Sixty-Eight Rooms