The Pirate’s Coin, the third book in Marianne Malone’s SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS fantasy adventure series for children, is a slight improvement over the first two novels, The Sixty-Eight Rooms and Stealing Magic, which three of us here at FanLit agreed did not meet the potential of Malone’s excellent premise. Readers who haven’t dropped out yet, presumably because they have enjoyed the series so far, should also be pleased with this installment.
Ruthie and Jack just can’t stay away from the Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute of Chicago. This time the plot involves two separate threads that (again) take place in the worlds of two of the Thorne Rooms. One involves a classmate that Ruthie and Jack discover is a descendant of Phoebe, the slave girl they met in Stealing Magic. Because Phoebe learned to write (thanks to Ruthie), she transcribed the recipes for her herbal remedies. These were stolen by mobsters and Phoebe was ruined and disgraced. For their classmate’s family’s sake, Jack and Ruthie set out to clear Phoebe’s name.
The second plot involves the pirate’s coin of the book’s title. When Jack discovers that one of his ancestors was a famous pirate, he goes to 1753 Cape Cod to meet him. In doing so, he changes history in such a way that he was never born. When he returns to the present, he starts to fade away and Ruthie’s memories of him start fading, too. They must go back and try to fix the mess they made, even though they don’t know what they did wrong.
As with the previous novels, The Pirate’s Coin is full of unbelievable coincidences, obvious solutions, and easy resolutions. However, its premise is wonderful, its protagonists are likeable, and the plots might spark a child’s interest in history. This third novel is slightly better than the first two because the kids spend more time in the fantasy worlds and the plot with Jack fading away brings in some much-needed tension. I particularly liked Ruthie’s internal struggle as she decided whether to take the easy way out and just let Jack fade away.
I listened to Listening Library’s audio version of The Pirate’s Coin which was narrated by Cassandra Campbell who does a nice job.
The Sixty-Eight Rooms — (2010-2014) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Almost everybody who has grown up in Chicago knows about the Thorne Rooms. Housed in the Children’s Galleries of the Chicago Art Institute, they are a collection of 68 exquisitely crafted miniature rooms made in the 1930s by Mrs. James Ward Thorne. Each of the 68 rooms is designed in the style of a different historic period, and every detail is perfect, from the knobs on the doors to the candles in the candlesticks. Some might even say, the rooms are magic. Imagine — what if you discovered a key that allowed you to shrink so that you were small enough to sneak inside and explore the rooms’ secrets? What if you discovered that others had done so before you? And that someone had left something important behind? Fans of Chasing Vermeer, The Doll People, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will be swept up in the magic of this exciting art adventure!