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!
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Random House Books for Young Readers
February 22, 2010
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Excerpt from The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone
Getting up in the morning was always a challenge for Ruthie. It wasn't waking up that was difficult--it was getting out of bed. She had to scrunch down to the end of her bed and climb out through the narrow opening between her desk and her sister's dresser. Then she had to be careful where she placed her feet on the floor because the under-the-bed storage bin for her summer clothes didn't quite fit under her twin bed. It stuck out just enough to trip her or stub a toe. The other difficult part was to avoid waking up her sister so Ruthie could claim the bathroom first. Claire was older and seemed to need much more time in the bathroom before school--or before going anywhere--than Ruthie did. Ruthie didn't understand why that was but it was an observation she had made many, many times.
Claire was nice enough--not horrible like some siblings Ruthie had heard of. But she took up so much time and space. Mostly space. In their little room, Claire's stuff dominated by far. She had a computer and a big printer on her already larger desk, all her sports equipment, lots of clothes piled everywhere and a growing mountain of college brochures, SAT study guides and application information. Claire was a junior in high school and starting the process of applying to college. Ruthie counted the days till her sister went away to school. Then she would have her own room.
This morning Ruthie woke up first and made her way through the small path in their bedroom to the doorway without waking Claire. She looked down the hall--great luck! The bathroom was empty and all hers. Among the kids at her school she was the only one whose family shared one bathroom.
Ruthie turned on the shower first to let the water warm up, took her one bottle of shampoo off the wire rack and tried to find a space for it on the shower ledge next to Claire's and their mom's gazillion hair care products. It wasn't easy.
As the warm water ran over her back she stood there for a moment, mulling the fact that the shower was just about the only place in her apartment where she could be alone and think privately. She envisioned the day ahead of her, the field trip and what the chances were of something cool happening today. Why not today? After a really exciting or unusual thing happens, do people look back and say, "I thought something would happen today"? Probably not. But why not? Ruthie wondered. Don't people ever have a feeling,a sign that something great will happen? Her time alone
was interrupted when the door to the bathroom opened, not once but three times.
From behind the map-of-the-world shower curtain she heard her dad say, "Sorry, Ruthie, I'm just looking for a book I thought I left in here last night."
"Dad, please!" Ruthie said.
"Don't worry, I can't see anything! Now, where did I put it?" He closed the door. Sheesh!
A minute later it was her mom. "Ruthie, have you seen your father's book on American history?"
"Mom, do you mind? No, I haven't. He already asked me."
"Well, don't take too long in the shower. Your sister needs to get going."
Right on cue, Claire came in and started brushing her teeth.
"Claire, can't I have any privacy?"
"Oh, Ruthie. Don't be a prude. Hurry up, okay?"
Six hundred and thirty-five days till she goes to college, Ruthie groaned to herself. An eternity!