ISBN #: 978-0-375-85711-9
Page Count: 265
(Taken from back cover)
Almost everybody who has grown up in Chicago knows about the Thorne Rooms. 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. Imagine ... what if, on a field trip, 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?
I like this cover because it vaguely reminded me of the cover of an older book that I enjoyed when I was about 9 or 10 years old, The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright. Just seeing a picture of miniature people walking in tiny rooms is enough to spark the imagination of any person.
Two kids, in Chicago, find a key while visiting the museum on a field trip. They figure out that the key holds magical powers, which leads them on adventures to other time periods.
Hhmmm ... two sentences and there you have the premise of this book ...
Ruthie - The youngest of two, Ruthie seems to have it pretty good. She doesn't think so, of course. The apartment her family lives in is small and she has to share a cramped room with her sister, but despite that, her family never seems to worry about money.
Jack - An only child in a single-parent home. He lives in a loft with his artistic mom, Lydia. They're behind in their rent and struggling to make ends meet. Basically, he is Ruthie's exact opposite and best friend.
Mrs. McVittie - An antiques dealer who seems close to Ruthie's family. She's older, has lived a long time and seems a little ... odd.
For an 8-12 year old (which is this book's recommended reading age), this would be an awesome book. Full of magic, wonder, adventure, etc. As an adult, I have some issues with this book.
First of all, Ruthie calls Jack's mom by her given name. She doesn't say ma'am, Ms. Lydia ... none of that. Now, maybe I have an issue with this because I've been in the South for 20+ years, but Ruthie's lack of respect annoyed me.
Then we have Mrs. McVittie, whom we learn hasn't been around Ruthie's family for several months. When she's introduced fully to us, we see that she goes into Ruthie's kitchen, without her parents or sister being there, and begins to make Ruthie soup.
I have a couple issues with this scenario alone ... First, when we meet Mrs. McVittie, we don't know how close she really is with the family. So why would Ruthie even let this woman into the apartment and tell her she was home alone?! I don't see this as a realistic situation. Surely Ruthie's parents would've taught her to not let anyone into the apartment without them or her older sister being there... wouldn't they?
Secondly, I don't know about you, but I don't have any business-related visitors coming over and going into my kitchen without asking to begin making me soup for lunch. How did this woman even know where the soup was? How did she know where the pots were to heat up the soup?
If what I've told you isn't enough, there's more ... Ruthie and Jack get away with lying their butt off in this book. The end result? They become almost local celebrities! Talk about rewarding bad behavior!
Now, like I said, I read this as an adult, so I'm going to have an extremely different opinion than an 8-12 year old. Even so, I really don't see parents going out and helping to promote this book. As a matter of fact, I think in several years' time, this book will probably be on the American Library Association's banned/challenged book list.