There are some questions that children's booksellers get asked over and over and over again, and one of them is "Do you have anything else like THE DOLL PEOPLE?". Beginning in February, my answer will be to hand them THE SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS.
In the Art Institute of Chicago, there is a collection of sixty-eight miniature rooms called the Thorne Rooms. Each one is designed in the style of a different time and place, and they are absolutely perfect down to the most minute detail. I have seen these rooms, and they are amazing. Mesmerizing. While on a field trip to the Institute, Jack and Ruthie find a key that allows a person to shrink down small enough to enter the rooms and explore. Once they do, amazing things begin to happen to them. They learn that they are not the first visitors to the room, and they learn that some valuable things may have been left behind in the past. The discovery of the key sets them off on a fantastic series of adventures, with mysteries to solve and chances to take and things to figure out about themselves.
This review will be necessarily short, because I feel like almost anything I say would be a spoiler. I can tell you this: I LOVE THIS BOOK. I love this book hugely. I cannot wait to sell this book. I am going to get my fifth grade girls' book club to read it; I am going to book talk it at any spring book fairs we might have. I am going to sell this book and sell it and sell it. I am going to buy it in hardcover and put it away for Molly. I am going to send it to my cousin's daughter and the daughters of friends. Not that you can't give this to a boy - I think there are some boy readers who will like it - but the premise of this book is one that girls often imagine themselves into. I used to wish all the time that I was small enough to fit into my dollhouse. Just sometimes. While reading this book, the memory of that particular make-believe from my past came flooding back.
This book will make a great read-aloud. It's good for classrooms and libraries and birthday party gifts for kids you don't know (and kids you know). It's a good grandparent gift; it's an easy handsell. It's smart with a strong female character and an excellent portrayal of friendship. It's only December 2009 and this is already one of my favorite books of 2010. Did I mention I LOVE THIS BOOK? And it's a debut! Well done, Ms. Malone. I can't wait to see what you do next.