THE SECRET OF THE KEY for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

This is the fourth and final novel in Marianne Malone’s Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventures. I had read the first in 2010 and never found the time to revisit Ruthie and Jack’s magical time travel stories in books two and three. I took the chance on this one 9780307977212_p0_v1_s260x420hoping I hadn’t missed too much. Thankfully, I was updated throughout the pages as to what occurred since my last visit.

The series would appeal mostly to history loving readers. You experience many famous places and events from the past. It’s adventurous but not at a break-neck speed, so probably not the best for a read-aloud. The author went to great lengths to ensure authenticity of the real world and people. Her quote in the Acknowledgements should be a great reminder to all writers:

Writing is a lot like gardening; seeds germinate, flowers bloom, weeds grow, and great effort is necessary.


FULL PLOT (From Amazon):  Chicago sixth graders Ruthie and Jack think they’ve learned everything about the magic of the Art Institute’s Thorne Rooms. But the magic starts to act strangely when Ruthie and Jack discover two rings that are out of place—and out of time—and a portal that shouldn’t be open but somehow is. Ruthie and Jack follow the clues to seventeenth-century England and the Brownlow house, where they meet the Brownlow’s governess, Rebecca. But Rebecca has a few secrets of her own—and she might even be in the wrong century! Can Ruthie and Jack discover the truth about Rebecca’s mysterious past, or will they end up stuck in the wrong century themselves? Their quest for answers takes them from 1930s New York City and San Francisco to turn-of-the-century China. The only one who can truly answer their questions may be the woman who started it all: the room’s creator, Narcissa Thorne. But to talk to Mrs. Thorne, they’ll have to go back in time and find her!

Unlock the magic . . . in the exciting conclusion to the Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventures!


  1. Greg Call’s wonderful full page illustrations scattered throughout the book. The black and white sketches serve as a portrait to the time period or event being explored.
  2. I visited the actual Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago several years ago. These are the 68 rooms this series explores. How fun it has been to experience them again in this book and learn a bit more about their creator, Narcissa Thorne.
  3. I’ve read many time travel books, but this has one of the more unique methods for traveling back in time. Made you wish it was really possible.
  4. Like all good series, this one has a nice conclusion that tied up all the events that took place. Made me nod and smile at the same time.
  5. The historical snippets like Winston Churchill’s speech, the 1939 World’s Fair, China’s Boxer Rebellion, and King Tut exhibit happen all too quick. Hopefully an interested reader will find the author notes and resources in the back of the book to acquire deeper information. Most interesting!


She reached out toward the door but it was slipping away from her faster than she could react, shrinking to a tiny dot before disappearing completely.


Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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12 Responses to THE SECRET OF THE KEY for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

  1. swlothian says:

    Time travel fan here 😃. This series sounds intriguing.

  2. Time travel books are always fun. It must be awesome if you could follow along without reading books 2 and 3.

  3. Janet Smart says:

    Sounds interesting. I love the idea of time traveling and I love history. Thanks for the review.

  4. Surprisingly, I am not familar with this series, but your review is makes it sound so enticing and I love time travel stories. Thanks for sharing it with us today.

  5. wow I adore that quote he shared in acknowledgments…SO true. Sounds great! 🙂

  6. Time travel + art = adventure. Plus historical notes! what’s not to love?

  7. Joanne Fritz says:

    Wow, it’s up to Book 4 already? I remember the first one quite well. Terrific story. Love that it involved real miniatures in the Thorne Rooms. I’m so jealous that you’ve seen them. Someday, I’d like to visit that museum.

  8. Love, the quote! I am a big fan of historical fiction and, although not a big fan of fantasy, I do like time-travel books. This series sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for telling me about them. I will do my best to find time to read these.

  9. Not familiar with this series, although I do like time travel and history. Think it’s a great way to teach kids a little history.

  10. warrchick says:

    I love historic snippets, and enjoyed that first line, so…yep, ‘fraid this one’s going to have to go on the pile! lol

  11. Susan says:

    Perfect, I read the first and third books in the series, and now I know about the fourth one. “Adventurous but not at a breakneck speed” is a good way to describe the stories in this series. I also love the quote as I am often struck by the similarities between writing and gardening!

  12. Andrea says:

    I don’t usually like time travel books, but this one sounds like it has some unique elements!

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