Thursday, September 20, 2012

On the small side

So, who’s been to the Art Institute of Chicago?  Lucky you if you've been to see the Thorne Miniature Rooms.

I had never heard of these exquisitely, detailed miniature rooms (built to the scale of 1 inch to 1 foot) displaying the interiors of European and American homes from the 1200s to 1930s, until I read  The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone (823 M297S FIC). I liked it, but I didn’t think it was it something to really rave about.  The two kids in the book, Jack and Ruthie, find a magic key that enables them to shrink to the perfect size to walk through the Thorne Miniature Rooms in the Art Institute.  A couple of the rooms allow Jack and Ruthie to time travel to France just prior to the French Revolution and to 17th century Massachusetts.  There are a few other minor storylines about Jack’s and Ruthie’s families that pads out the story and makes the kids more real.

I thought the premise of the book really interesting but felt that the time travel aspect wasn’t developed enough. I had hoped for more adventure.  Just my personal taste and I certainly wouldn’t tell you not to pick this up.

 But, then in comes Miniature Rooms: the Thorne Rooms at the Art Institiute of Chicago (747 Mi 2004) a catalogue of the model rooms.  Lots to keep a person (namely, me) studying each room for quite sometime. This took the novel The Sixty-Eight Rooms to a whole new level for me.  Actually, seeing the rooms that Ruthie and Jack walked through was engrossing.

And then I went to the website for the Art Institute. If visiting the website give yourself a bit of time as it also is a time sink. It’s easy to get drawn in looking at all the beautiful fabrics, furnishings, and household decorations in each room. It boggles the mind to think to the of craftsmanship required to design and produce these fantastic rooms.  If you can’t get to the Art Institute of Chicago, the website is well worth a visit.

Pairing the novel with either the Art Institute’s website or with the book, Miniature Rooms will enhance this middle grade novel.  Seeing the detail of the rooms as described in the novel will make it more engaging.


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