Set in Venice, Italy, The Thief Lord is a fantasy about two orphaned boys running away from
their cruel aunt and uncle. Their deceased mother had been quite taken with Venice, painting an image for the boys
of "winged lions, a golden cathedral and a fairyland full of angels and dragons perched on top of buildings" (Funke 2002). Bo and Prosper find their way from Hamburg, Germany to Venice and into the middle of a group of street children lead by a dashing 13 year old called 'Thief Lord'. These children form a sort of family unit, watching out for one another, working together
to provide shelter, food, clothing, and protection.
Their world begins to unravel as they meet the mysterious Conte and are charged
with locating a broken wooden wing. The magical Venetian setting with its canals,
secret islands, and ancient buildings lends itself to a wonderful fantasy romp which captures the reader and keeps them spellbound
to the satisfying and humorous conclusion.
The characters are realistically portrayed
with both good and bad traits. Realistic descriptions of the children and their daily
lives allow the reader to picture this group of rag-tag urchins living by their wits. The reader understands that
the children resort to thievery for survival and some of the characters are bothered by this more than others.
Ms. Funke's black line drawings interspersed
throughout the book let the reader picture the true Venice. The author incorporates many Italian words and a glossary
at the end of the book lending authenticity to the story and "building awareness of foreign languages" (Tomlinson 1996). The reader can almost hear, taste and smell the everyday Venetian life and one
can't help but relate to the children's plight and wish for a satisfying conclusion for every character! This book was
the 2003 recipient of the Mildred L. Batchelder Award.
Tomlinson, C. 1996.
Books that invite talk, wonder, and play. Available from
http://online.twu.edu/bin/common/content. Accessed 08 June 04.