Funke, Cornelia.2001. The Thief Lord. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0-439-40437-1
B. PLOT SUMMARY
Prosper and Bo have run to the magical city of Venice, Italy to escape the clutches of their cruel Aunt and Uncle who have hired Victor, a local private investigator to find them. The brothers fall in with a group of child thieves who live in an abandoned theater and are led by the mysterious "Thief Lord". Scipio (the Thief Lord) is hired by the Conte and his sister, Morosinato to steal a magical wing which belongs on a merry go round that can turn those who ride it either younger or older. The boys must decide where their fate lies and whom to trust as the mysteries of the merry go round unfold.
C. CRITICAL ANALYSIS (INCLUDING CULTURAL MARKERS)
Written by a German author and set in Italy, The Thief Lord fits the bill for international literature. The Italian city of Venice serves as a fitting backdrop for the mystical nature of the story. The twisting and turning streets of the city mimic the twists and turns of the plot of the novel. Also interwoven through the story are snippets of the Italian language which helps to lead to the authenticity of the characters and setting. For readers not familiar with the language there is a glossary of terms at the back of the book.
Common customs are also included such as spitting in the canal for luck. Scipio is often seen wearing a simple beaked carnivale' mask to help hide his identity. These masks are for sale year around in all parts of the city.
Although the reader is aware of the modern setting of the novel by the use of such items as cellular phones, the feeling of the story is authentic due to cultural markers which reflect the day to day life of Venetians. Throughout the novel the characters travel by foot through the streets and over the canals of the city. If not traveling by foot they take a boat. Pedestrian travel is the preferred mode for those who live in and visit Venice.
The characters within the novel are fairly well developed. The love between Prosper and Bo is evident and their bond as brothers is exceptionally well written. The story is realistic in nature with the exception of the magical merry-go-round, which has the feeling of being inserted into the story simply to enable a conclusion.
Several universal themes run throughout the book. The first is a sense of belonging to family. This theme is explored within the relationship between Prosper and Bo and also through the interaction of the orphan children with each other and with Victor. Also, the themes of trust and friendship are present through the relationships between the children and their growing relationship with certain adults.
Each chapter includes a pen and ink drawing done by the author of a place or item in the city of Venice. The drawings help the reader to understand the layout and nature of the golden city on the water.
D. REVIEW EXCERPTS
The Zurich Children's Book Award (2000);
The Children's Book Award from the Vienna House of Literature (2001).
2003 Mildred L. Batchelder Award
2002 New York Times Notable Book
Winner of the 2005 Young Readers Choice Award (Senior Division)
"Harrowing and comical escapades abound....Funke delights readers in the feelings of childhood....Although the core of this tale is heartwarming, the merry-go-round...hints at darkness, leaving its riders and the novel's readers changed forever." Kirkus Reviews
"There are shards of wonderful stories in this ambitious narrative....Funke beguiles young readers as she paints the city of Venice in exquisite strokes; the affection between the brothers is sweetly rendered." GraceAnne DeCandido, Booklist
"Funke brings together a large but not indigestible array of adults and children....It's a compelling tale, rich in ingenious twists, with a setting and cast that will linger in readers' memories." School Library Journal
Look for these other books by Cornelia Funke:
Dragon Rider (2004)
Igraine the Brave (2007)
Saving Mississippi (2010)
Ghost Knight (2012)
Children can view a slide show of the Italian Carnival here: http://www.hellokids.com/c_14357/reading-online/holidays/carnival/carnival-of-venice
Have children explore the country of Italy through lessons in Geography and art.
Explore author Cornelia Funke's website: http://corneliafunke.com/
Check out Scholastic's page about the author and her work: http://www.scholastic.com/corneliafunke/bio.htm