What girl doesn’t dream about shrinking down to play in her dollhouse? This premise, with a time travel twist, is the genesis for the story The Sixty-Eight Rooms. The titular rooms are the Thorne Miniature Rooms housed in The Art Institute of Chicago. They are meticulously crafted rooms depicting late 1200s to 1930s Europe and 1600s to 1930s America. Ruthie and Jack visit the exhibit on a field trip and Ruthie, in particular, is mesmerized. Intrigued to see what the rooms look like from the staff-only area that runs behind the exhibit, Jack manages to talk a security guard into showing them backstage. That’s where Jack finds the key.
At first when Ruthie holds the key, she feels it grow warm in her hand, and the sensation of a breeze blowing by. Later, when she holds the key in the vicinity of the rooms on a return trip to the exhibit, Ruthie is stunned to find herself shrinking! Jack and Ruthie soon realize that the key and the rooms were meant to be used together and they begin their adventure. Even more surprising than all they’ve seen so far is the revelation that the windows and doors built into some of the Thorne Rooms actually lead to the time and place they recreate. The only way they’ll have the time and privacy to explore all the Thorne Rooms have to offer is to hatch a secret, overnight visit to the exhibit—Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler-style.
The Sixty-Eight Rooms is followed by Stealing Magic: A Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure. After all, Ruthie and Jack have 68 Thorne Rooms to explore.
Check the WRL catalog for The Sixty-Eight Rooms.