Down one flight of stairs and adjacent to galleries of photography and a wondrous collection of paperweights live The Thorne Rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago. From glorious French Louis XVI bedrooms to colonial farmhouses, adults and children can imagine sword fights and grand dances. Tiny scaled models of home interiors, each setting puts your imagination in motion. It's no wonder that Marianne Malone was inspired to create a series of children's books that take place within the rooms.
The first book, The Sixty Eight Rooms, introduces us to the Thorne Rooms and the main characters, sixth graders Ruthie and Jack. On a field trip to the Art Institute, the two best friends find a key that literally unlocks an adventure. The key gives them access to the corridor that runs behind the rooms for maintenance.
When Ruthie puts the key in her pocket, she shrinks to the 1-inch to 1-foot scale of the rooms. She can visit each room and experience the attention to detail that makes the rooms so captivating.
Their access to the miniature settings, because of course they figure a way for Jack to shrink as well, coincides with some mysteries in their home lives. And, of course, there are discoveries of full worlds that live beyond what you can see in the exhibit. All of this magic lays the ground work for a series of delightful children's books.
The 68 Thorne Rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago are a wonder of imagination and skill. They feature European interiors from the 13th century to the 1930s and American homes from the 17th century to the 1930s. Conceived by Mrs. Narcissa Niblack Thorne, the models were created between 1932 and 1940 by exacting craftsman. Thorne's wealth came from her marriage to James Ward Thorne, an heir to the Montgomery Ward department store fortune.
For the holidays, the rooms are decorated for Christmas, Hanukkah and new this year -- Chinese New Year. The holiday decorations are up until January 6th.
About the Author
Marianne Malone lives in Urbana, Illinois. She decided to write a children's book after teaching middle school. She has always loved doll houses, art and The Art Institute of Chicago.
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