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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


***The Thief Lord

by Cornelia Funke

Reviewed December 21, 2002.
Scholastic, Inc., New York, 2002.  349 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF FUN).

The Thief Lord is the translation of a German children’s book.  Cornelia Funke is the third best-selling author in Germany, behind J. K. Rowling and R. L. Stine.  This book is quite different from works by those authors.  There is a touch of fantasy toward the end, but mostly this is a spell-binding adventure yarn.

Prosper and Bo (short for Boniface) have run off to Venice.  Their persnickety Aunt Esther wanted to adopt cute five-year-old Bo after their mother’s death, but she didn’t want to take on such an inconvenience as twelve-year-old Prosper.  So Prosper and Bo headed for Venice, a place their mother had described again and again as magical.

In Venice, the boys fall in with a gang of street kids led by an enigmatic boy who calls himself the Thief Lord.  He provides a place for the kids to sleep in an abandoned theater and gives them a share of his loot to keep them warm and fed.  He doesn’t spend the night in the theater with the others, and no one knows how he comes and goes.

The plot of this book has as many beckoning twists and turns as the alleyways of Venice.  A detective comes looking for Prosper and Bo just when the Thief Lord is offered an especially profitable job.  One thing leads to another and the kids get entwined in something much different than they expected.  I can’t say too much, since the plot surprised me over and over again.

Parents might wonder if the book glorifies thievery.  Not as much as you might expect.  Prosper isn’t happy about the stealing from the start, and it turns out that stealing is harder than it appears.  When the kids get cheated themselves, they aren’t very happy.  Nobody ever comes out and says that stealing is wrong, but they at least realize that it’s difficult.  This topic would be worth discussing with your children.  It’s the one reason I’m giving the book three stars instead of four.

This is a warm and intriguing story.  What child hasn’t wondered what he would do if left on his own?  The canals of Venice add a wonderful atmosphere and the mysteries will keep the reader turning pages.  I hope that more of Cornelia Funke’s work will be translated into English.

Review of another book by Cornelia Funke:
The Princess Knight

Reader comment:  Cindy gives this book five stars!

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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