The Thief Lord

by Cornelia Funke

Hardcover, 2002



Local notes

Fic Fun (c.1)




Scholastic (2002), 349 pages


Two brothers, having run away from the aunt who plans to adopt the younger one, are sought by a detective hired by their aunt, but they have found shelter with--and protection from--Venice's "Thief Lord."


Utah Beehive Book Award (Nominee — Children's Fiction — 2004)
Iowa Teen Award (Nominee — 2005)
Nēnē Award (Nominee — 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
Indies Choice Book Award (Winner — Children's Literature — 2003)
Garden State Teen Book Award (Winner — Grades 6-8 — 2005)
Grand Canyon Reader Award (Nominee — Teen — 2004)
Colorado Blue Spruce Award (Nominee — 2005)
South Carolina Book Awards (Nominee — Junior Book Award — 2005)
Mildred L. Batchelder Award (Winner — 2003)
Gouden Griffel (Zilveren — 2004)
Locus Recommended Reading (Young Adult Novel — 2002)
Read Aloud Indiana Book Award (Intermediate — 2003)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

349 p.; 8.44 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member parallactic
Two brothers, Prosper and Bo, run away from their aunt to the city of Venice, and fall in with a boy calling himself the Thief Lord, and his gang of children. Their aunt hires a detective, Victor, to find the brothers, while the children agree to steal back a lion's wing that belongs to a
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merry-go-round that has legendary properties.

Clean, simple prose. This is a translation from a German book, so I don't know what the original author's writing is like.

The Good:
The setting was fully realized, tangible and there, from the dessicated movie theatre, to the streets and canals of Venice. The descriptions never bogged down the narrative. The book juggled the cast of characters very well, and I never got confused over who did what, or where. The last 3/4s were interesting, in terms of what is an adult and a child. It was an enjoyable read, and a good way to pass the time, but I don't understand why it got recommended or talked about so much.

The Bad:
The plot felt loose, meandering, and like it took a while to get started. This is probably because the book is meant to be slower-paced, and the last half was better paced.The characterization was workman-like; characters were distinct and sympathetic, with clear motivations, but they didn't leap off the page for me. I suspect this just isn't my type of book, thus my mild reaction.
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LibraryThing member noneofthis
I'm not sure what it is about Funke's writing, but I just cannot enjoy her books. This is the second one I've tried, after first reading Dragon Rider, and they were both, oh, somehow both sugary and bland.

I'm all about applauding the kids in The Thief Lord getting the drop on the adults, which
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they do constantly, but they pulled off their clever tricks so very easily. I never got the feeling that, oh, actual danger might be lurking around the corner. Dramatic acts were all candy sweet, and characterization had been bypassed for caricatures. Even a hundred pages into the story I really couldn't care about what was going on, which is either a fault of of the plot in being uninteresting or a fault of characters for not fostering my investment in them.

I still keep hearing recommendations for Inkheart, but I'm really not sure if I'll ever actually pick that book up. Yes, its story sounds interesting, but these other two were so disappointing that I'm very hesitant to even give it a try.
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LibraryThing member aratiel
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke is a wonderful book, written for children but obviously enjoyable by so-called adults like me. I don't have very many scholarly comments prepared, that would just defeat the purpose of a fun book such as this. Originally written in German, it concerns the adventures
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of orphan brothers Prosper and Bo, who have escaped to Venice while running from their overbearing aunt. The aunt only seems to want to adopt 5-year-old Bo, threatening to send the older Prosper to an orphanage. This is unacceptable to both boys, so they flee to Venice, a place their late mother always spoke of as an enchanting city. They find a safe haven with an older boy who calls himself the Thief Lord, along with his gang of street urchins, who all live in an abandoned movie theater and live off the Thief Lord's various heists and pickpocketings. All the while they are being trailed by a half-hearted detective named Victor who is in the employment of Bo and Prosper's aunt. Truly adventurous and enchanting as Venice itself no doubt is, the only problem I had with this story was suspension of belief. When I picked up this book and started reading it, I pinned it more as general fiction; obviously six children living in such a carefree, adult-free lifestyle might have been stretching it, but it is more or less believable. But halfway through the story, strange things start happening concerning a magical carousel that changes the age of the rider. Of course, the fantastical addition was delightful, but the fact that it happened after I had assumed that this was a "true life" book threw me a little. Yet this is a trivial thing, and now I realize that it wouldn't have been the same without the magic carousel; it ties in directly with the premise that no matter what age you are, you always think that everything would be a little easier if you were just a bit older or younger.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
I got this book for a long drive with my kids and the consensus in the car was: the book was an OK way to spend a few hours. It's a pleasant story, populated with some engaging characters. Everyone in the car found someone they liked and with whom they empathized.

There was wonderful atmosphere in
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the book and the author did a good job of evoking Venice—I was there many years ago and the the book instantly summoned memories of the sights and sounds of the city. One thing I particularly enjoyed about the book is a sense of timelessness. As the story flows along, I felt myself losing track of when it was set...then a reference to a cell phone would come along and I'd say, "Oh yes,..." I can't put my finger on the reason, but I think this helped to draw the reader/listener into the story.

If all of this seems a bit of damning with faint praise, it's because the book has a couple of flaws that make it less enjoyable than it might have been.

In the first place, I think we were all feeling a bit disjointed by the plot. The book is billed as a fantasy and, technically, it is since the object of their quest is magical. However, there was nothing else in the story that even hinted of magic or fantasy, so it made it seem out of place. It's there for a brief chapter or two, but we have 50 or so other chapters with nothing fantastical in them. The ending, in particular, left us all wondering, "So, what happened to the magic?"

Second, I felt...and the kids did, too, based upon their fidgeting...that the pacing of the book was very uneven. We have long build ups to the children solving the puzzle. We have long wind-downs to the various subplots after the puzzle is solved. However, what should have been the high point of the book, the encounter with the conte, occupied just a few pages and then was gone.

A pleasant book, but not the next Harry Potter.
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LibraryThing member melydia
Young brothers Prosper and Bo are on the run in Venice, having escaped their aunt Esther who intends to separate them. Esther hires Victor, a private investigator, to find them. Soon Victor finds himself in the middle of a complex plot involving orphans, mysterious counts, and a certain Thief Lord
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with secrets of his own. Though the fantasy element was an interesting treatment of classic Bradbury, it came out of nowhere and left me a little cold. If the story leading up to that part hadn't been so thoroughly within the realm of Realistic Fiction it would not have been quite so jarring. That said, it was still a fun little tale with likable characters, and I am still a little bit in love with Scipio.
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LibraryThing member goodnightmoon
This is not a reflective book. Hardly ever does Funke linger to describe a lovely Venetian scene or zoom in for a close-up of a character's face (thus revealing his emotional state) - but. But the plot, the plot, the plot. I found myself thinking about what would happen next when I wasn't reading.
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The story line drew me along at a fast clip - and that makes for a very satisfying read. I wasn't sure where the ending was going, but I don't mind its fantastical twist. I won't remember the story forever, but while I was reading, it was great.
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LibraryThing member Saieeda
A good book for middle readers, but after age 11 the writing style is a little too young. A touch of magic makes this book appeal to children. Adventure overflows between these pages adding to the appeal. A touch of mystery and intrigue complete this children's masterpiece. Still, I feel more
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challenging vocabulary could have been used, and the conclusion seemed to come out of nowhere.
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LibraryThing member mitchsar
The Thief Lord is a fantastical coming of age story. The fantastical elements did not come into play until the final third of the book, which was an abrupt change. The characters are an interesting mix of adults who are childlike and children who act as adults. The setting of Venice, Italy is a
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mysterious, magical place. I would recommend this fun, easy read to any middle school student, but boys might find it particularly engaging.
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LibraryThing member CeridwynR
This seems really shallow after reading her Ink Trilogy. I think it has the wrong balance of naturalism and fantasy with too much realism for the magical elements to work - it's too hard to know which world we're living in. The book really wasn't a stand-out for me and the characters haven't lived
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on in my head at all.
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LibraryThing member aprildt
The tale of 5 children (ages 5-13 or so) who live in an abandoned movie theater in Venice and headed by the mysterious Thief Lord. Add a middle aged detective hired by an aunt and uncle of two of the boys (who want to adopt only the sweet little one, and not his older brother), an old man who will
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stop at nothing to get his hands on an ancient treasure, and a magical merry-go-round. Well-written, funny, briskly paced. This is aimed at children, but it's smart enough for older people to enjoy, too.
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LibraryThing member ruthaly
An amazing childrens book.You should read it
LibraryThing member katietwa08
This was one of my favorite books to read on my own time growing up. I loved how I could get completely lost in a world away from home. I was thrilled at the concept of being one of the characters on their own, running around the city every day and fighting for my own survival. The twists in the
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story always kept me hooked on every word. This book lets its readers run through the venitian city, scamper through the dusty rows of the old theater, and row in boats to islands that hide precious fantasy merry-go-rounds. It's easy to transform yourself into a hungry child fighting for food and other necessitities on the street -- to view the world from their perspective and become excited at the very things that excite them. For those who don't like to call themselves readers, this book will change their mind. Packed with mystery, suspense, action, and good old running from the authority adrenaline, this story will captivate any young reader (and many older readers as well).
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LibraryThing member crochetbunnii
Personal Response:
I enjoyed the mystery in the novel. Not only did the children need to find out the true identity of the Thief Lord, but they also have to solve the mystery of the merry-go-round. I like how the merry-go-round is never fully resolved and the reader is left wondering what the whole
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story is. The descriptions and illustrations of Venice really pull the reader into the setting and the story of children on their own living quite comfortably makes for a great story for children seeking a little independence and autonomy.

Curricular Connections:
In a public library setting, i would use this book as part of a book group theme of stories set in international settings, as will probably be the theme with the 2011 Summer Reading Program, "One World, Many Stories."
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LibraryThing member elizabethholloway
(MS Adventure) The Thief Lord is a great adventure and a completely engrossing book. From the beginning, the readers sense the real jeopardy the children face but also have reassurance in the kind disposition of Victor. All the children are distinct and their desires and fears help drive the plot.
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Scipio, the Thief Lord, is complex and sympathetic despite the fact he lies to the others. Lastly, Venice, herself, is the most compelling character, full of magic and mystery!
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
I really enjoyed this tale of children surviving on their own. The sympathetic adults were reasonable and helpful, there was a bit of mystical fantasy (but only a bit), and in general the story was satisfying. I felt that Ms. Funke captured very well that yearning that parent-less children have for
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someone who will love them as a parent would - particularly children who have known that love before.
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LibraryThing member PrincessHeart1997
I loved this book, it's been a long time since i've read it but i remember its a great book that i read over and over about 6 times. that was 4 years ago, i loved the two boys i can't remember there names my favourite was the thief lord, i loved how he wasn't really a thief that he was posh. i
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loved that book i'm gonna read it again now to remember then edit this. lol.

oh i remember now, prosper and bo! :P i loved bo and they lived in that cinema i loved it becuaset the writing was great, the plor was brillant it had magic twisted in the story, the characters personalitys were written perfectly i could imagine bo being my friend nearly everyone in my year (we were 7-9 at the time) had a crush on him or possper. the author made you fall in love with the all the kids in the book, including the inspector. 5/5 amazing one of my favourites ever!
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LibraryThing member kpolhuis
You know that it is a good book when you are transported to Venice within its pages.
LibraryThing member sirfurboy
This book was a good adventure in a wonderful setting. Part of the main plot appears to be borrowed from Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes", but this is a very different story.

It should be enjoyable to younger readers, although is not a children's book that is so transferable to
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adults I think. It nevertheless remains a delightful romp with plenty of action, adventure and intrigue.
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LibraryThing member MssJos
Cornelia Funke does a wonderful job of telling the amazing story of Proper and Bo, orphans who have escaped to Venice, Italy based on their late mother's fantastical descriptions of the city. Luckily, before Bo and Prosper freeze or starve to death, an already formed band of street children take
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them in and allow them to live with them in an abandoned movie theatre. Prosper and Bo soon learn that these children are cared for by a child close to their own age who calls himself "The Thief Lord." Between the forgotten items of tourists and the Thief Lord's grand theft adventures, the children believe they are quite well off, that is until they discover the Thief Lord has been keeping a very interesting secret from all of them.

Between dodging a detective their cold-hearted aunt has sent looking for them, trying to survive in the city while staying out of trouble, and discovering the Thief Lord's secret, Propser and Bo embark on an amazing adventure that changes the course of their future.

Cornelia Funke does an amazing job describing Venice in such extravagent detail that readers feel like they're there! The imagery provided brings the story to life, capturing readers of all ages. The characters are lovable and believable making readers want to invite them all into their homes by the end of the novel.
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LibraryThing member sensitivemuse
This book went by fast! I actually managed to get it started on Friday night, then continued for the rest of the day on Sunday and finished it! It was so interesting I just wanted to know what was going to happen next. At first though I had to admit I wasn't sure what to expect with this novel. I
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was actually expecting a novel that was set in Venice back in the past, but surprisingly it actually took place in present day. Which didn't really make it uninteresting at all, it suited the setting just fine. I really liked the idea of a group of street children surviving and treating it all like one big adventure after another under the leadership of The Thief Lord. Although putting this in a historical fiction setting would also be good as well, it still does well in the present day setting albeit differently but it doesn't take long to get used to it.

The book was interesting enough, and the plot flowed through seamlessly. There was never a part in the book where I was bored. The chapters were short enough to keep you going and it was definitely a page turner. The majority of the characters were very likable although there were times where I wanted to smack Bo around a bit for being such a pest. Then again he played the role of little brother perfectly. I have to admit, Scipio had to be my favorite character. Especially after what happens to him near the end, I find that he has matured the most, but maintained his childhood self. I liked his character development the most. In the end though, all the children had matured and although it was sad to see everything change, it actually had quite a bittersweet ending. Why bittersweet? because I was just sad to see the story end with such likable characters.

Although a sequel might be tempting, I don't think there should be one. The ending was complete and all questions were answered. Actually, I think a sequel might actually ruin it. The story is fine as is. This book was a great mix of fantasy, adventure, and a bit of drama.

Overall, a really nice quick read, which will take you to an adventure and you'll ask yourself; Would you take a ride or not?
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LibraryThing member Bibliotropic
I first watched the movie, and after finding out that it was based on a book, I knew I had to get my hands on it. And I wasn't disappointed; the movie stuck remarkably close to the book, so if you're reading the book after you see the film, you'll enjoy one as much as the other.

If there's one place
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that fantastical YA and children's stories tend to fail, it's in their characterization of adults. Cornelia Funke's novel does not suffer from this: adults gripe and grumble about things, feed their pets, smoke, handle guns, and actually act very much like adults instead of just obstacles in a kid's path or else a convenience means to a kid's end. Or like overgrown kids.

Except for Barbarossa. He's definitely an overgrown kid, and that's his character, so the author can't be faulted on that.

The diversity of characters and the way Funke can portray complex emotional reactions and situations without going overboard in the prose is also something to be commended. The languaged used is simple, direct, and clear, and yes, it is a translation from another language into English, but I'm working under the assumption that it's a good translation and therefore carries the feel of the original work.

The story is well-told, and you don't even know that there's a touch of fantasy about the book until near the very end, which works very well at adding to the credibility of the whole story. There's magic, it's real, it touches them for a brief moment and then is gone, but leaves a profound effect on all of the characters.

If you enjoy well-told YA/children's stories, and/or you enjoyed watching the film based on the book, then you'll love The Thief Lord. Don't miss your chance to give it a try!
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LibraryThing member anniecase
An Oliver Twist for the 21st century, this tale of orphans in Venice is a joy to read. Each chapter leaves you wanting more. The adventure, the intrigue and the humor make this a brilliant choice for avid school-aged readers.
LibraryThing member bookwormygirl
Prosper and Bo are on the run from their aunt and uncle who want to separate the brothers by having the young Bo live with them while shipping the older Prosper off to boarding school. With hopes of staying together, they flee to the magical city of Venice where they are taken in by a mysterious
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boy who calls himself the "Thief Lord". With the help of their Thief Lord they are able to reside in an abandoned movie theater with other young runaways - who they consider family and the dilapidated theater a home. Along the way we also meet Victor Getz- the detective hired by Bo and Prosper’s aunt and uncle to help find the boys (and by far my favorite character).

This story was such a fun, action-filled, fast-paced adventure! I loved all the details and descriptions of Venice. The characters were full of wit and quite funny. The story itself is well-written has the perfect combination of magic, imagination, and reality.

For those of us who love adventure, twisty plots and witty characters - this is really a treat.
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LibraryThing member heidilove
I loved this. Oddly enough, it landed with no small amount of serendipity into my lap just as i was craving a trip to Venice (no, i had no idea about the setting of the story). The characters are real and delightful, and the plot is as lively as the point, which combine to make this a real keeper.
LibraryThing member craigwsmithtoo
Bo and Prosper remember the stories about the magic city of Venice that their mother used to tell them. After their mother dies, the two boys are sent to live with an aunt, who doesn't really understand or even like kids. They run off to Venice and begin a life of crime. The two find shelter in an
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old movie house with a gang of thieves, led by the Thief Lord. The Thief Lord is nothing but a child himself, but he has a knack for stealing the best stuff.

Bo and Prosper are being tracked down by a private inspector who was hired by the aunt to retrieve them.

This story is fun, well written, and exciting. It is a quick read.
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½ (1741 ratings; 3.8)
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