The Sixty-Eight Rooms - Review

The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone
Publication date: February 23, 2010
ISBN 10/13:  0375857109 / 9780375857102

Category: Middle Grade Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Keywords: Thorne Miniature Rooms, friendship, adventure, imagination

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How I found out about this book: The cover struck me as intriguing--it came in the same day as Incorrigible. Who hasn't dreamt of shrinking down and living in a perfect dollhouse? (Well, all right, there may be some people out there...)

Quickie: It had its moments, and is worth a read, but I wasn't terribly excited by this one. I hold that if a story is told well, it should not matter what age it's written for. The story was good, the plot was decent, but it was missing that--how can I say this--magic?

My review: Spunky, clever children shrink down to scale-model size to explore a miniatures exhibit in a museum--excellent! Throughout the book they face challenges real and intangible, such as how to get from one place to another while extremely tiny/not wanting to be seen, or how to help your friend who might be losing their home, without being inappropriately meddlesome. Or how to battle a giant cockroach that suddenly appears when you are, unfortunately, just slightly smaller than is comfortable in that situation.

The mystery and magic of The Sixty-Eight Rooms is engaging but too simplistic--those too well-versed in similar scenarios (A Night at the Museum comes to mind)--will see the plot points looming from miles away. The predictability undermines the thrill one should feel when a new discovery comes to light.

Ruthie & Jack are nice enough kids--precocious to a fault--and I think they may have been aged to make their escape from parental supervision more believable, when they really act and speak more like eight-year-olds. This will appeal to eight-year-olds, probably, but likely not to the rest of the reading public.

The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago are real! Visit their website and click on "View Featured Works" to see 15 of the 68 rooms.

All in all, while the book was good, it wasn't great. I do hope that Malone will continue to explore this world--Ruthie & Jack only took us to a few of the rooms. I wonder what's in the other ones!

Who should read this book: For fans of A Night at the Museum, Alice in Wonderland, and young dreamers everywhere, The Sixty-Eight Rooms is a clever, interesting adventure into art, history, friendship, and problem-solving. Although the characters in the story are in 6th grade, the language is available to a much younger audience--I would say as young as 7 or 8 years old.

The Sixty-Eight Rooms is Marianne Malone's 1st novel.

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What do you think? Is this something you would read? If you've already read it, put in your two cents... (no spoilers, please!)