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The Thief LordReview - The Thief Lord
by Cornelia Funke
Listening Library, 2002
Review by Su Terry
Apr 29th 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 18)

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke has been favorably compared to Harry Potter. It is the delightful tale of two orphan boys who runaway from their aunt to live in "the magical world" of Venice.

The Thief Lord is set in contemporary Venice. Two orphan brothers, 12-year old Prospero and 5-year old Boniface, have runaway from their aunt and uncle who live in Hamburg. They travel to Venice that is the magical place that their mother told them about, but for two orphans with no money Venice can prove to be anything but magical. Soon after arriving, Prosper and Bo meet a group of street urchins- the scholarly Hornet, the street wise Mosca and Riccio, and the mysterious "Thief Lord" Scipio. Except for Scipio, the children live in an abandoned movie theater and cover their expenses with the money they raise from selling the stolen goods that the Thief Lord brings to them. The children sell their purloined loot to the very unscrupulous "red-beard" Barbarossa. As the story opens, Prosper and Bo's aunt, Esther Hartlieb and her husband have hired Victor Getz, a likeable detective to find the boys. Actually, Esther is only interested in finding the "angelic" Bo. His older brother, if found, would be placed in a boarding school. It was, in fact this soon to be enforced separation of the brothers that was their primary reason for running away. Meanwhile, Barbarossa tells the children that he has a very rich client, the Conte, who is interested in hiring the Thief Lord to steal an object. He hints that the fee for the theft would be substantial. The usually confident Thief Lord is unnerved by the request for his services, but the children appeal to his bravado and he relents. The aged Conte meets the Thief Lord in the confessional of a church in order to protect his identity and the two agree to the theft. The fee, indeed, is substantial especially in light of the fact that all the Comte wants the Thief Lord to steal is a very ordinary looking wooden wing. The wing, however, is reputed to be part of a magical merry-go-round that once belonged to the Merciful Sisters, but which has long since vanished. Meanwhile Victor Getz is hot on the heels of the brothers.

The Thief Lord reminds me of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist updated and moved to Venice. While the book has been compared to Harry Potter, it was really hard for me not to keep comparing the book to Dickens. There is the band of streetwise urchins "picking a pocket or two" and living off of stolen goods. There is the miserly Barbarossa living off his ill-gotten gain from the children. There is the young innocent(s) Prosper and Bo learning the ropes at the school of hard knocks, but never meant for life on the street. There is the "Thief Lord" Scipio, ringleader of the erstwhile band. Then there is Ida, the beautiful rich woman who owns the wing, part love interest, part substitute mother, part sister in crime. The only real addition is Victor Getz, the adorable detective with a pension for disguises, a heart of gold and two lovesick turtle.

"Cornelia Funke is a bestselling author and the third most popular children's book writer in Germany after J.K. Rowling and R.L. Stine. The Thief Lord has won several European children's literature awards, including the Zurich Children's Book Awards (2000) and the children's Book Award form the Vienna House of Literature (2001)." Following on the success of The Thief Lord the author will soon release an English translation of her 1997 book entitled Drachenreiter ("Dragon Rider" - TBA).

Simon Jones has appeared in the films The Devil's Own, Twelve Monkeys, For Love or Money, Green Card, Brazil, Monty Python's Meaning of Life and Miracle on 34th Street. His television appearances include a role in The Cosby Mysteries and Murder She Wrote. He has been featured on Broadway in The Real Thing, Benefactors, and Private Lives. Jones' narration of The Thief Lord was nominated for the ALSC 2003 Notable Children's Recordings and Winner of the 2002 AudioFile Earphones Award.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke is an enchanting tale of runaway orphans, horrid stepparents, bumbling detectives, a charming thief, and magical merry-go-round. As one reviewer wrote, "The Thief Lord will steal your heart away." He will indeed along with Victor, Prospero, Bo, and all the rest. Jones does a wonderful job with the children's voices and as for Victor, he all but jumps off the tape right into your car or living room. This is an excellent audiotape. This book is rated "Ages 9-12". I highly recommend it.

 

© 2003 Su Terry

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Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.


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