What is shocking in the case of "The Thief Lord" by Cornelia Funke, one of Germany's most popular kiddie-lit writers, is that the book lives up to the audacious claim. It's got the magic, the adventure, the awkward boy heroes and the plucky chick sidekick. It's even been edited by Barry Cunningham, the man who "discovered" Rowling and published the Harry Potter series in England. But "Thief Lord" is also just a darn good yarn - the charming tale of a band of urchin-thieves, a magical carousel and two orphaned brothers. Written in German, set in Italy and now translated into English, the postmodern fairy tale was just released in Britain, where it sold out in 10 days. In September, it'll arrive in the States with the British vernacular largely intact. "You don't have to Americanize everything for children to understand it," Cunningham says. "I find that quite condescending." Besides, the whole European vibe sure worked for Harry.
Wacky characters bring energy to this translation of an entertaining German novel about thieving children, a disguise-obsessed detective and a magical merry-go-round. After their mother dies, 12-year-old Prosper and his brother, Bo, five, flee from Hamburg to Venice (an awful aunt plans to adopt only Bo). They live in an abandoned movie theater with several other street children under the care of the Thief Lord, a cocky youth who claims to rob "the city's most elegant houses." A mysterious man hires the Thief Lord to steal a wooden wing, which the kids later learn has broken off a long-lost merry-go-round said to make "adults out of children and children out of adults," but the plan alters when Victor, the detective Aunt Esther hired to track the brothers, discovers their camp and reveals that the Thief Lord is actually from a wealthy family. There are a lot of story lines to follow, and the pacing is sometimes off (readers may feel that Funke spends too little time on what happens when the children find the carousel, and too much on the ruse they pull on Prosper's aunt). But between kindhearted Victor and his collection of fake beards, the Thief Lord in his mask and high-heeled boots, and a rascally street kid who loves to steal, Prosper's new world abounds with colorful characters. The Venetian setting is ripe for mystery and the city's alleys and canals ratchet up the suspense in the chase scenes. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Venice is a city of beauty, mystery, and plenty of secrets. Prosper and Bo are brothers who come to Venice to escape their terrible aunt Esther. They soon join a gang of street children determined to make their own living in the shadows of everyday Venice life—with the help of each other and their mysterious leader, the Thief Lord. While the practice of petty crime keeps the group alive, temptation becomes unbearable when a secretive client offers the Thief Lord a burglary challenge he cannot refuse. At the same time, a hidden danger draws near. A detective, paid by Esther to hunt down Proper and Bo, is on the brink of discovering the Thief Lord's hideout. Yearning only for a better life, the children begin the commission that will change their lives forever, and will set the Thief Lord to his hardest trial yet. This novel, translated from the original German text, is full of delightful characters and creative plot line twists. Funke's imagination touches the adventurous parts of the heart, as well as the simple human desire to belong and be loved. This story is pure magic. 2002, Scholastic, 349 pp.,
This German best-selling children's author creates a delightful tale that borrows a little from Oliver Twist and a bit from the magic of the Harry Potter books. A good-hearted private investigator is hired by a somewhat villainous couple to find their orphaned nephews. Fearing that the couple will separate them and actually only want them for their inheritance, the boys have run away to Venice, where they have the good fortune to fall amongst a tight group of street urchins, who often make ends meet through petty theft and cons. They live comfortably in an abandoned theater, benefactors of a mysterious masked boy who calls himself the Thief Lord. He often supplies them with food and expensive goods to hock. Life gets complicated when the children are hired by a sinister old man to retrieve a wooden wing from an old woman's home just as the investigator discovers the hideaway. What is the secret of the wing? Who is the old woman? All is resolved as the Thief Lord is unmasked, the boys outwit their aunt with the help of the PI, and the wing is restored to its mystical origins with some dire consequences. The magical city of Venice is used to full advantage. The characters are richly and realistically drawn-the good guys are not always good and the bad not really so bad. This satisfying, twisting tale is for upper elementary readers who enjoy a dab of magic surrounded by a charming story. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002 (orig. 2000), Scholastic, 349p,
This novel about runaways in Venice, Italy, has been a best seller in Germany and has won literary prizes there and in Austria and Switzerland. It isn't really a YA novel, but is instead a sometimes demanding children's book, filled with adventure and a bit of magic. It's demanding because it's rather long and filled with details about Venice, which may be hard for many middle school students. Still, I'm sure there will be students in 5th through 8th grade who will appreciate the European nature of the story. There are many characters, and the adults are nearly as well realized as the children (an odd circumstance in children's literature). One main character is a miserable rich boy whose father either ignores him or demands too much of him. So Scipio—the Thief Lord—makes his life more exciting by befriending a group of children who are homeless runaways. Scipio finds them a place to stay in an abandoned cinema. Included in the runaways are two brothers, Prosper and Bo, orphans hiding from their aunt. This aunt hires a detective named Victor to find the boys, but when Victor does locate them, his sympathies lie with the boys and not with their aunt. The plot just gets more and more convoluted, with numerous other characters, planned thefts, a connection with an orphanage run by Catholic nuns in Venice, a magical carousel that will change a child to an adult or an adult to a child (you can imagine that some of the characters take advantage of this escape), and much more. The action rolls along in short chapters, each illustrated with a small pen-and-ink illustration of a locale in Venice. The vocabulary is somewhat demanding, with Italian words thrown in for atmosphere, but some YAs willcertainly enjoy this challenge. It is possible that it would appeal to readers of the Harry Potter stories. Category: Hardcover Fiction. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2000, Scholastic, The Chicken House, 345p. map.,
Claire Rosser; KLIATT
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Actor Simon Jones does an excellent job of giving voice to Cornelia Funke's mystery adventure tale which has won several European children's literature awards (Scholastic, 2002). This Dickensian story begins in modern times in detective Victor Getz's office in Venice as he is asked to search for Esther Hartlieb's orphaned nephews, Prosper and Bo, who ran away when they learned Esther was going to adopt five-year-old Bo but send Prosper away to a boarding school. The boys came to Venice because their dead mother had often lovingly described the beauties of the city to them. They wind up in an abandoned movie theater with other runaways who are working for Scipio, a young boy they call the "Thief Lord." The evil Barbarossa who accepts their stolen goods asks them to steal a special broken wooden wing that came from an old, magical merry-go-round which can transport riders backward or forward in time. The plot is full of twists and surprises, and the characters are vividly described. The excellent descriptive passages make it easy to picture the characters and setting. Loyalty, honor among thieves, and whether it's better to be an adult or a child are some of the themes explored in this fast-paced, spellbinding tale.-Diane Balodis, Alden Intermediate School, NY Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
When the orphans Prosper, 12, and Boniface, 5, run away from Hamburg to Venice to escape separation by their aunt and uncle Hartlieb, the crotchety, childless couple hires private detective Victor Getz to find Bo, the only brother they want. Prop and Bo feel at home with their new comrades (three other orphans who survive by picking pockets, but are otherwise harmless) in an abandoned movie theater. Their ringleader, the mysterious Thief Lord, appears from time to time with stolen riches that he gives to his poor friends. Harrowing and comical escapades abound when the Thief Lord accepts a job that will leave him and his friends financially secure-to steal a wing from a wooden lion statue. This wing, which belongs to the unconventional, kindhearted photographer Ida Spavento, is no ordinary piece of wood, but rather the missing piece to a hidden, magical merry-go-round rumored to turn children into adults and adults into children. As the children win over Ida, and even Victor, this new band of outcasts rescues one another from perilous events and scheming villains; ventures to the bewitched Secret Isle from which, as more rumors have it, no one ever returns; finds the missing merry-go-round; and creates the perfect solution. The magical city of Venice, with its moonlit waters, maze of canals, and magnificent palaces, is an excellent setting for the plot twists and turns in this fantasy/mystery/adventure, all rolled into one spellbinding story. A bestselling author in Germany, who has reached the US for the first time, Funke delights readers in the feelings of childhood, what it feels like to be innocent, afraid, curious, and safe; need friends and love; and want independence yet also to becared for. Although the core of this tale is heartwarming, the merry-go-round, like Ray Bradbury's carousel in Something Wicked This Way Comes, hints at darkness, leaving its riders and the novel's readers changed forever. (map, glossary, not seen) (Fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher
The story opens with a solitary bachelor detective, Victor, accepting a commission to find two runaway brothers: Prosper, the older boy (who is not wanted); and Boniface, or Bo, who looks like an angel and is therefore dear to his childless (and humorless) aunt. The brothers have run away to Venice to avoid being separated and are living with a gang of thieving orphans presided over by the boyish, cocky Thief Lord. As Victor's sympathies begin to shift from the aunt to the brothers, the gang of thieves becomes entangled in a caper that involves stealing a wooden wing from a carved lion-the missing piece of a carousel that magically turns old people young again and makes children grow to adults in an instant. The problem is not the wing's owner, artist Ida Spavento-she actually helps them, provided she can follow along to discover where the wing will be taken. The real complication is the Thief Lord, whose identity turns out to be smaller-than-life and whose attraction to the magic of the carousel draws the gang into further danger. The story moves at a slow pace, lingering in explanatory dialogue and descriptions of Venice, but the idiosyncrasy and resonance of the central carousel image create a potent, continental atmosphere that laces the tale with a bit of excitement. In the course of pursuing the carousel's mystery, Victor and Ida and the brothers fob off Prosper and Bo's aunt with the kind of child she really wants and band together as a new kind of family-a sweet and comforting conclusion that will satisfy readers whose hearts have been touched by the loyalty and courage of the two brothers and the rewarded generosity of their new foster parents.--Horn Book, November/December 2002
Orphaned brothers Prosper and Bo have ditched their guardian aunt (who's only willing to adopt the charming, younger Bo) and have fled to Venice, where they come under the dubious protection of a teen who carries off daring thefts by night and herds a small band of street gamins by day. The gang of the 'Thief Lord' is more than willing to assist their leader in his midnight heists, but he seems reluctant to bring them along on any actual jobs, and readers will probably figure out long before Prosper and Bo do that the young criminal is actually a rich kid pilfering his parents' goodies. He does, however, get them involved in a plan to help reconstruct--for unimaginable wealth, of course--a magical merry-go-round stolen years ago from an orphanage. Trailed by a gumshoe looking for the siblings, and most improbably befriended by a would-be burglary victim, the children dodge their way through a hailstorm of transparent subplots to reach their respective happy endings. Readers undaunted by page count can find Funke's themes developed more thrillingly elsewhere-in Dickens' Oliver Twist and in Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. This comparatively lightweight (in content, not ounces) romp has its moments, however, and the social joys of joining what promises to be a heavily hyped Reading Event may well carry the day.--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 2002
There are shards of wonderful stories in this ambitious narrative, but they don't quite cohere into a shimmering whole. That said, this is still a pretty nifty adventure set as brilliantly in its Venetian setting as a baroque pearl. Twelve-year-old Prosper and five-year-old Boniface cling to the stories their mother told them of Venice, with its winged lions and rooftop angels. After her death, they run away from Hamburg and their pinch-faced relatives to Venice, where a motley crew of children, living in an abandoned movie theatre, takes them in. The leader is Scipio, the Thief Lord, who directs the petty thievery and acts as older brother to the group. Victor, a gentle detective, has been hired to find the brothers, and he does so quickly, but is bemused by their ragtag family and is loathe to hand them over to the aunt. Funke begu