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The Thief Lord



A modern version of the shipwrecked story.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The kids steal.


Some minor fighting. Prosper holds a gun, but doesn't use it. Bo's aunt and uncle abandon him to an orphanage because he doesn't behave well, which some children may find disturbing.

Not applicable


Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One of the adult characters smokes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that they might be bothered by the amoral attitude of the author toward the stealing by the main characters. Though Prosper disapproves, he participates. Also, Bo's aunt and uncle abandon him to an orphanage because he doesn't behave well, which some children may find disturbing, though it is mitigated by the fact that Bo doesn't want to stay with them either.

What's the story?

After their mother's death, Prosper and Bo run away from their unpleasant aunt Esther, who plans to adopt Bo and send Prosper off to boarding school. Arriving in Venice they fall in with a small group of children who live in an abandoned theater and make a living by stealing, led by a boy who calls himself the Thief Lord.

Tracked by an eccentric detective hired by their aunt, the children instead capture the detective and hold him prisoner while planning a theft, commissioned by a mysterious Conte, of a broken wooden wing that comes from a legendary, and possibly magical, carousel.

Is it any good?


The great popularity of this book with children is something of a mystery. It is very slow to get started, the fantasy element doesn't appear until the last 75 pages, there's little emotional involvement, and the rest of the story meanders as much as the winding canals of Venice. For adults, the story is also problematic -- none of the grownup characters ring true or behave like any adult you've ever met. And the amorality of the children, and the author, is a concern.

But perhaps that's what makes the book appealing to children: For them the fantasy begins long before the magic appears, with self-sufficient children and adults who let them be, crime without punishment, and complete freedom. Living on their own in a theater in Venice, with kindly adults around to care for them but not bother them or make them clean up and go to school, must seem like a magical fantasy to children whose lives are programmed and whose every waking minute is supervised.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the orphans' lifestyle. What are positive aspects of their lifestyle? What are the risks? Were Prosper and Bo right to run away?

Book details

Author:Cornelia Funke
Illustrator:Cornelia Funke
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:October 12, 2003
Number of pages:352
Publisher's recommended age(s):11 - 14

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Teen, 16 years old Written byTressino April 21, 2011
Teen, 15 years old Written byShinjo April 9, 2008

This is a superb book that took great, suprising turns!

This is a great book that everyone ages 9 and up will love. There is so much going on and it makes you want to stay up all night to finish! I loved how things turned out much differently then most books, like the hero suddenly became a shameful stealer, and the others learn to forgive. A great lesson and book for all!
Teen, 13 years old Written by666wolfgirl September 25, 2009

I love it!

This book is really awesome! It's creatively-written and indeed a page-turner. It grabs your attention and won't let it go, even to the very last page. The movie is also interesting, too. I didn't realize The Thief Lord was a book until I watched the movie. When I noticed it was written by Cornelia Funke, it was something I just HAD to read. She's a brilliant author and one of my favorites.


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