The Pirate’s Coin: A Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure, by Marianne Malone

pirate coin picI loved the first book in this series, The Sixty-Eight Rooms (2010) (my review here.) But this third book in the series, The Pirate’s Coin: A Sixty-Eight Room Adventure,by Marianne Malone, (2013, 205 pages)? Not so much. Have I changed? Probably. Did the quality of Ms. Malone’s storytelling decline? Probably not. I believe in Pirate’s Coin the author just didn’t make the most of aspects of the plot that I found compelling in the first book. (The second book of the series published in 2012 is Stealing Magic.)

I liked the in-a-nutshell description of the series in the first paragraph of this review from Booklist:

The Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure series blends multiple topics of fascination to many a reader: miniaturization (think The Borrowers), time travel (think the Magic Tree House), mystery (think Hardy Boys), and secretly trawling a museum behind the scenes (think From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler).
In this third outing, Jack’s ancestor, from whom he inherits a gold coin, was apparently a seagoing man, and the coin appears to be connected to the adventures the kids have when they make themselves small enough to stroll though the doll-sized, historically decorated Thorne Rooms at Chicago’s Art Institute. The mystery of the coin, and another involving Phoebe, a slave girl the friends met in a previous outing, reveal a new facet of the rooms’ importance: as repositories for vital artifacts. Retrieving one for a classmate related to Phoebe becomes the duo’s mission, even as they discover unwanted consequences. Intriguing, and with enough loose ends to entice readers to further installments, this remains a standout series. Grades 4-6. –Karen Cruze
Four complaints I had about this book:

a. Too many paragraphs were spent on the logistics of how main characters Ruthie and Jack got from one location to another.

b. There was not very much time travel.

 c. As a longtime lover of stories about  dolls who come alive/tiny people/talking mice /tiny people with tails, I found this book short on encounters with objects/animals that highlighted the size of the shrunken kids in a fun or dramatic way. The scale of a spider and spider web with which Ruthi and Jack had an encounter seemed off to me.
 d. Finally, I have never shared  the fascination our culture has with old timey pirates, (I know–I’m downright un-American), so the pirate theme was not a draw for me.
Four things I liked:
a. The book touched on slavery, in an age-appropriate way.
b. Jack and Ruthie have a great friendship.
c. Ruthie and Jack try to help people and make the world a better place.
d. The book is enlivened with many warm drawings.
Here is a Huffington Post article about the Thorne rooms which includes some of Malone’s thoughts about the exhibit.
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