The Cabinet of Wonders

The Cabinet of Wonders. Rutkoski, Marie; Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 2008.

Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN: 978-0-374-31036-4; Cost $16.95

Jacket Illustration by David Frankland. The Cabinet of Wonders © 2008 by Marie Rutkoski. Used with the permission of Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group


12 year old Petra's greatest desire is to help her amazingly talented father regain his eyesight, after his eyes were stolen from him by the unscrupulous prince! Petra meets Neel, who thinks he can help Petra in her quest, but can she overlook some of the habits that he learned in a world much different from the one she came from?


This book might help readers look at those around themselves differently, and discover the “magic” that is within their grasp if they are willing to partner with others in different walks of life. A mixture of fantasy and history, this tale invites us to travel deep into the Cabinet of Wonders , making it possible to talk to a friendly, well-read mechanical spider, or maybe even help an eccentric countess with magical feats such as the invention of a original hue that has never been a part of the color spectrum before. The theme of the importance of family echoes throughout the story, but perhaps not necessarily in the sense of a “traditional” family.


Themes: Magic -- Fiction; Princes -- Fiction; Romanies -- Fiction; Fantasy; Inventors -- Juvenile fiction.


Author information: 

Author Marie Rutkoski is a professor of English literature at Brooklyn College and lives in New York City. A second book in The Kronos Chronicles Series, The Celestial Globe , is expected to be released in April 2010.


Discussion Questions: (Standard 3; Benchmark 3)

•  Would you consider Astrophil to be Petra's “inner spider” or conscience? What are some examples?

•  What is the relationship between Dita and Petra? Does Dita cramp Petra's style? How did Dita's entry into the home affect Petra?

•  How are families portrayed in this book? How important were Neel's and Petra's families to them, and how did they demonstrate this?

•  Sometimes adults overlook the ideas and capabilities of young people. Discuss how Petra's experiences affect her relationship with her father. How does she gain power over her own life by the end? What can we learn from Petra and her actions?



•  List the qualities of the main characters in this story: Petra, Neel, Mikal Kronos, and Astrophil. Write/tell why these are important qualities to have. Standard 2, Benchmark 2

•  Go to the library and find information about the Roma in Bohemia. What information about prejudice against these people did you find? How does this information fit in with Neel's story? Standard 1, Benchmark 5

•  Research Roma clothing, art, food and culture, some examples of which are provided in the book. Students may create some type of visual media demonstrating Roma clothing styles, transportation, writing and culture. Standard 1, Benchmark 5

•  The clock built by Petra's father is described on p. 114-115. Draw a picture of your vision of this amazing clock from the details provided in the book. Or, how do you imagine that Iris looked? Draw a picture of Iris in action! Standard 5, Bench mark 3


Similar Books for Further Reading

•  Katherine Paterson , Jip, His Story

•  Bellairs, John, The House with a Clock in Its Walls

•  White, Ruth, Belle Prater's Boy