I just finished reading The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke – an entertaining story of adventure set in Venice. It follows the story of some street children who live in an abandoned movie theater in the heart of Venice. Prosper and Bo, two brothers whose mother has just died, run away from their mean aunt in Germany because she wants to adopt just the 5 year old Bo, while leaving his older 12 year brother, Prosper, to fend for himself. The boys do not want to be separated and therefore run to Venice because their Mother used to tell them wonderful stories of Venice – making it magical in their minds. There they meet up with the street children who take them in to their secret hide out. The children’s leader, a young boy named Scipio, is believed to be a master thief who can steal whatever from whomever. But Scipio is a mysterious boy – he doesn’t live with the other children and only appears when he has some stolen loot that he wants to give the children so they can sell it and continue to live. Little by little, the truth comes out about this Thief Lord and his status begins to diminish in the eyes of the children. Various characters in the book come forth and they are depicted in such great detail that we can visualize them very clearly in our minds. There is Barbarossa – the antique dealer whom the children sell their stolen loot to – whose pompous attitude makes him unattractive and distrustful. There is the kind hearted Ida Spavento (a dichotomy of a name for her since “spavento” means “fright” and she is completely the opposite of this) who takes the children in and protects them. Also involved is Victor – the detective hired by Bo’s aunt to locate him – and who finally sees that she is cruel and mean and therefore helps the children, too.
The children have one adventure after another, but the biggest one comes when a very old Count asks the Thief Lord to steal a wooden wing from Ida Spavento. As they are stealing the wing, Ida surprises them mid-theft and thus begins the start of their relationship. Rather than be upset because they were there to steal from her, she understands why they have been asked to steal this special object and strikes a deal to tag along with them when they deliver it to the Count. She knows that this wing belonged to a stolen magical merry-go-round and she would like to know where that merry-go-round has ended up. The encounter leads them to the Isola Segreta, an island where no one has ever escaped from. If the legend is correct, the missing wing would complete the merry-go-round and allow it to carry out its magical powers.
This book is delightful and interesting throughout. The depictions of Venice and the lagoons are vivid – complete with the constant drizzle and cold of a Venetian winter. Some Italian vocabulary is thrown in for a more authentic reading experience. I can highly recommend this book for a light and carefree reading experience. It would be a great book to share with your children, too!