Summary (from Goodreads):
Fans of magic, mystery, and adventure will love the third The Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure—a perfect next step for kids who love the Magic Tree House series, and just right for readers who love Chasing Vermeer, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Wonderstruck. Sixth Graders Ruthie and Jack return to the Art Institute of Chicago's magical Thorne Rooms. During a school presentation, Ruthie and Jack discover that their classmate Kendra is descended from Phoebe Monroe, the young slave they befriended when they traveled to 19th-century South Carolina. Kendra tells them that long ago her family lost their good name and their business selling herbal remedies when mobsters accused them of stealing the recipes! Only Ruthie and Jack know the truth--because only they know about the secret ledger that Phoebe wrote the recipes in long ago! Ruthie and Jack's mission to clear Kendra's name takes them back to the Thorne Rooms, where a mysterious old coin leads them to 1753 Cape Cod and to Jack's own ancestor . . . the pirate Jack Norfleet! But playing with history can be dangerous! Suddenly, Jack's very existence is in jeopardy! Can Ruthie and Jack find the proof they need to help Kendra? And can they fix the past and save Jack's future . . . before it's too late?
I just love these books! I know a big part of my overall love is the connection I feel to Ruthie and Jack. They both love the Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute in Chicago, and well I love the Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute. I used to go there all the time (growing up), and I would imagine being able to walk inside them. I’m so unbelievably jealous of these two fictional characters for being able to do something I always dreamed of doing. On top of that these books are just plain adorable and so much fun!
I think the books actually get better as the series goes along. The initial magic of the first one was fun, but I like the magic better as the two main characters actually learn more about it. Plus, the characters are getting smarter, braver, and just plain more interesting as the story continues. Less time is spent on the logistics of shrinking and growing and climbing, and more time is spent on bravely taking leaps, running through dark passageways, and taking adventures when they see them.
Things also get a little more serious and complicated with the whole time-traveling business. The two learn the consequences of changing the past –something that was never quite addressed before. It’s also learned too (though not really highlighted), that Ruthie and Jack actually are going back in time, and not just into some magical Thorne Room time loop. Something the two do back in the time of Jack’s pirate ancestor (!) almost erases Jack from history.
There’s more adventures, more history, more mysteries, and more magic. What about that mixture sounds bad? This one was a little more suspenseful than the others were too because Ruthie was racing for time to try to fix Jack from disappearing while simultaneously also forgetting him…And the other story involving slavery and the mob was also rather fascinating. And I have also come to love the series’ formulaic plotlines that always end in helping people. Ruthie and Jack aren’t just about going on adventures or keeping things to themselves. They actually genuinely care about people and want to help as many people as they can with the special knowledge they now have.
This is probably one of my favorite middle grade series out there and the books just keep getting better. The two main characters are believable and so brave. The histories and room stories only get more and more interesting. The way Ruthie and Jack keep using the advantages they have to help others is actually rather inspiring. And I can’t wait to see where else these two sixth graders will go, and who else they will help. I give this one a 10/10.