Art Institute's Miniature Rooms Exhibit Comes Alive In Literature

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Marianne Malone's "The Sixty-Eight Rooms" series was inspired by an exhibit at the Art Institute in Chicago. Pictured here is “Cape Cod Living Room, 1750-1850,” by Narcissa Niblack Thorne. Malone's most recent book, "The Pirate Coin," is set in 18th-century Cape Cod. (Art Institute of Chicago)

The Thorne Miniature Rooms are one of the Art Institute of Chicago’s most beloved exhibits: 68 miniature detailed representations of rooms that might have existed in Europe and America over some six centuries.

They inspired author Marianne Malone to write a series of children’s books aptly named “The Sixty-Eight Rooms.” The latest in the series, “The Pirate’s Coin,” is released in paperback today.

The books feature Ruthie and Jack, two sixth graders who, through a magical key, are able to shrink small enough to fit into the Thorne Rooms. They discover that some of the rooms turn out to be portals to other times and places.

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson spoke to Malone last fall and we re-air the interview today.


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