Customer Reviews: Stealing Magic: A Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure (The Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventures)
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Customer Reviews

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on January 30, 2012
I loved reading The Sixty-Eight Rooms. When I opened to the first page of the sequel, Stealing Magic, I felt as though I was being reacquainted with friends I hadn't seen for a while. The second installment captures the excitement of the magical adventure that Ruthie and Jack stumbled upon in the first book. A villain has been introduced; items begin to disappear from the Thorne Rooms (the 68 miniature period rooms on permanent display in the Art Institute of Chicago) and not only do our heroes have to figure out who is stealing them, they have to devise a way to stop the thief without exposing the secret magic. Oh, and they help save the life of a Jewish refugee girl in 1937 Paris, and they meet a young slave girl in Charleston South Carolina, before the Civil War. I love how Malone weaves history into the fast paced action, so kids won't even notice they are learning a little something along the way. My young friends enjoy these books, and they are the kind I would have devoured at age 8-10. These books work great for read aloud and for a surprisingly big age range at that.
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on January 25, 2012
I got an eGalley of this book to review from the publisher. This book is a sequel to Sixty Eight Rooms, which I read last year and really enjoyed. This book was equally fun and I enjoyed the mystery and magic involved. It seems like there will probably be another book following this one.

Ruthie and Jack thought that their adventures in the Throne Rooms were over. But there are still mysteries to be solved. Historical items are being stole from the rooms and Ruthie and Jack are concerned that these disappearance might be connected with an art thief that is running rampant in Chicago. Now they have to figure out if there is an art thief involved or if someone else has discovered the magic of the Sixty-Eight rooms. On their adventure to solve this mystery they will journey to 1937 Paris where they try and save a girl and her family from Nazis and they will solve the mystery of the strange purse that Ruthie got in the last book.

These are such wonderful books. The story is a bit simple and predictable but it is well put together and well written. Ruthie and Jack are smart and fun kids who have a good relationship with their parents and get drawn into the most wonderful mysteries. I loved that they spend more time in the magic Throne Rooms in this book than they did in the last book.

In the course of their adventure Ruthie and Jack learn a lot about history; they get to visit Paris during the Nazi takeover and they get to visit the South when slavery was still in practice. They solve a wonderful mystery and I really enjoyed how a number of little elements from the first book were tied into this story; it was well planned out and well put together. I can't comment on the artwork throughout because the advanced copy that I had didn't have any artwork completed yet.

Overall I just really enjoyed Ruthie and Jack as characters. I love the mysteries that they get entangled in; and although the book was a bit predictable it was still very well woven together. I find the magic of the Throne Rooms to be absolutely intriguing and magical; I wish that I could go with Ruthie and Jack and go back in time to see all these awesome events in person. This book is a fun read, teaches some interesting history, and has a wonderful mystery. I recommend it highly to middle grade readers who love learning about history, love mysteries, and love a little magic in their stories.
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on January 30, 2012
I don't want to give anything away but I have to say that although what I expected to love most about these books was the fantasy of exploring the Chicago Art Institute's Thorne Rooms as a miniature person (I wished SO much that I could as a even now), what I really love most is the main character, Ruthie. She's smart, thoughtful, and curious. She's always trying to do what's right, even when things get complicated, and I LOVE the dream sequences that haunt her as she puts the pieces together. I felt she was very truthfully conceived as a character, as was Pandora Pommeroy, the seemingly perfect-in-every-way interior designer...

I think this book would appeal to both boys and girls in later elementary school because Ruthie is not in the slightest a girly girl and between her and her best friend Jack, there is a lot of really fun and creative problem solving, which I think everyone will enjoy. It's a Bridge to Terabithia / Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler / Indian in the Cupboard reading level and adventure level. And it could provide a good bridge to some history lessons.
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on September 24, 2012
My daughter and her friends positively LOVE "The Sixty-Eight Rooms" adventures. They've all read the books multiple times and the stories have even prompted a few trips to see the rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago. These stories have really sparked the girls' imaginations as they look forward to more titles in the series.

The series inspired my daughter to write a report on Narcissa Niblack Thorne. When she had trouble finding resources for the report, author Marianne Malone was very generous with her time in discussing Thorne's life with this 9 year old. I was very impressed by this effort on Malone's part. It's just that sort of kindness which we see too infrequently in this hectic world and speaks well of Malone not only as a captivating author, but as a fine person.

While her writing alone has done much to inspire my girl, her kindness has elevated her to the position once occupied by J.K. Rowling. :)
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VINE VOICEon October 28, 2014
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature. We review SFF, horror, and comics for adults and kids, in print and audio daily.

Stealing Magic is the second book in Marianne Malone’s SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS adventure series for middle grade readers. When Bill and Kelly wrote about The Sixty-Eight Rooms, the first book in this series, four years ago, I was intrigued by the fascinating premise — two 6th grade kids find a way to explore the Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute of Chicago and discover that they can use the rooms to get into the world of the time period the rooms depict. This sounded wonderful to me, but Bill and Kelly were disappointed because there was too little time spent actually exploring the fantasy worlds (which would be the fun part). Bill suggested that the first book might be an introduction to the series and he hoped for more adventure in subsequent novels.

Since the publisher of the audio version of the series recently sent me a review copy of the fourth SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS book, I decided to give the series a try. I started with The Sixty-Eight Rooms and found that, as I had expected, I agreed completely with Bill and Kelly. The book is a tease — there’s very little time spent in the rooms and the worlds they are portals to. I decided not to review The Sixty-Eight Rooms because I’d just be wasting time and space by repeating exactly what Bill and Kelly said.

In this second book, Stealing Magic, Ruthie and Jack visit the worlds of two of the Thorne Rooms. One is 19th century Charleston, South Carolina where they meet a black slave girl who wishes she could read. They give her a gift to help her fulfill her goal. The other is Paris in 1937 where they meet a Jewish German girl at the Paris Expo. When they later review their history and realize that this girl and her family are in danger from the Nazis, they plan to go back and warn her not to return to Germany. However, someone has stolen the key to the rooms and some items from the rooms are also missing. Ruthie and Jack must solve the mystery of the stolen key, find the stolen items, and get back to Paris to warn their new friend.

Unfortunately, Stealing Magic has the same problems that the first book has. Most of the plot takes place in the real world. There is very little time spent in Charleston and Paris and even that little bit of time simply looks like a set piece with the requisite Paris and Charleston props (e.g. Eiffel tower, cafés, Nazi flags, cruel slave owners). The lack of exploration is disappointing. The lessons that the kids learn are simple and obvious (Nazis are bad, slavery is bad) and given no shading or nuance (the only time we encounter a slave owner is when we see a white boy gleefully stomping ants — ah, this means slave owners are outrageously cruel). The tension is easily resolved (“Hey, watch out of the Nazis” “Oh! Thanks for the warning, I will!”) and the far-reaching (future) consequences of Ruthie and Jack’s interference with the two girls they meet is unbelievable (Kelly mentioned this in her review of the first book). The real-world art thief is also obvious (it’s the only new character) and easily exposed. The story would have worked better if the art thief mystery had been more challenging and Malone had concentrated on just one of the fantasy plots (either the Nazi plot OR the slavery plot). As it is, this story feels like the author dropped her manuscripts of three separate books into the river and concocted Stealing Magic out of the pages she managed to fish out.
Young children (3rd through 5th grade) may be more forgiving of the simplicity of the plot and they will learn a little bit of history in the process, but I think most of them will want to do more exploring of the rooms and the worlds beyond (which would teach them even more history). I will keep hoping for that in future installments because Malone’s premise is full of unmet potential.
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on February 21, 2014
This is part of the 68 Rooms series, and I loved the first book, so I am sure this one will be wonderful as well. Definitely an interesting twist with the kids being able to shrink down into these rooms and find clues and continue their adventures. I loved it.
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on July 21, 2013
As always Miss Malone does not disappoint! My daughters and I love the series of the Sixty-Eight Rooms and hope that she continues to write many more. Because of this series we all want to visit the CMA and see the rooms for ourselves.
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on December 10, 2012
Another in the children's mystery series about the Thorne Rooms in Chicago. Great book series and appropriate for children 8-13. Well developed characters, fantasy, mystery, and ethical lessons intertwined into the plot line.
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I love time travel books and mysteries so thoroughly enjoyed the books in this series. I bought copies for my school library along with a book that has photos of the rooms the characters visit (not necessary, but makes it even more fun). The writing style and vocabulary is excellent!
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on February 7, 2012
I read the first of this series (The Sixty-Eight Rooms) to my fourth graders and would highly recommend it for a class or reading on their own. Magic allows best friends Ruthie and Jack to shrink into the historical Thorne Miniature Rooms in the Chicago Art Institute which are magic portals that send them to exciting places in the past. My students enjoyed all the adventure and mystery solving, as well as the historical scene setting which was a fantastic way to tie in history lessons.
Stealing Magic is a great continuation of The Sixty-Eight Rooms. It reads a lot like its precursor however I think there is a bit more time spent in the past which I really enjoyed. Adventures in this book include an especially well described visit to Paris at the dawn of World War II and excitement involving the escape of a German Jewish family. The kids also go to the south before the civil war where they meet an enslaved girl. There is also a mystery that unfolds in the present which I won't reveal.
I really look forward to sharing this with my students who loved the first Sixty-Eight Rooms book.
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