If you're from the Chicago area, you're no doubt familiar with the Thorne Rooms, 68 miniature rooms – spanning historic periods and geographic locations –all rendered in extraordinary detail at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was Marianne Malone's fascination with these diminutive dioramas that inspired her debut novel for middle-grade readers, The Sixty-Eight Rooms (Random House, February 2010).
In it, main characters Ruthie and Jack find a magic key at the Art Institute that enables them to shrink to Thorne Room size. Exploring the rooms – and the people, places, and eras just beyond their walls, from the French Revolution to the Salem witch trials – the two find adventure and intrigue, and learn something about the true meaning of home.
Marianne tells how her background as an artist and art educator were vital to the writing of her book, how she wove concepts of "place" into her tale, the Art Institute's reaction to her book, plus much more in my February children's market column at Authorlink.com.
Causes Susan VanHecke Supports
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
National Trust For Historic Preservation