The Thief Lord Summary

Synopsis

Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord is set in Venice, Italy, in autumn. Twelve-year-old Prosper and five-year-old Boniface are brothers being pursued by Victor Getz, a small-time private detective. The boys’ rich aunt and uncle, Ester and Max Hartlieb, want to find Bonice (called "Bo" throughout the novel) to adopt him because the boys’ mother has passed away. However, they only want to adopt the angelic-looking Bo; they intend to send Prospero to a boarding school because they believe that Prosper is too old to adopt.

Wanting to stay together, the boys run away. Their mother used to tell them fairy tales about Venice, the city to which they are now drawn. Once they arrive, the brothers meet Caterina, a slender young girl nicknamed "Hornet" for her long, skinny braid. Homeless, they stay at the Star Palace, an abandoned movie theater, with Riccio, a boy about Prosper’s age, and Mosca, a strong boy of African descent. Thirteen-year-old Scipio Massimo, "the Thief Lord," takes care of the group at the Star Palace, wears a mask, and pretends to be an orphan too.

The group survives by selling stolen items to Ernesto Barbarossa, or "Redbeard," a small-time antique dealer who enjoys swindling people. Redbeard introduces the group to the Conte, who hires Scipio and his charges to steal a treasured wooden wing from Ida Spavento for five million lira. Before they can do so, Victor finds the brothers, but is captured by the children at the Star Palace. He had earlier visited Scipio’s father, Dottore Massimo, and discovered that the Thief Lord is actually a very wealthy young man. Victor tells the group about Scipio, and they learn that all of the stolen items sold to Redbeard are actually from Scipio's own home.

The group still decides to steal the wing, but they are caught in the act by Ida. A former orphan, Ida reveals that the wing was part of a magical merry-go-round. It can turn a child into an adult and an adult into a child, depending on the way the carousel spins. Ida decides to help them take the wing to the Conte. Then, the group goes to the island with the merry-go-round because they discover the Conte's money was counterfeit. The Conte and his sister are younger when they arrive. Scipio takes a ride to become older because he hates being told what to do by his wealthy father. Without warning, Barbarossa arrives and wants to see the Conte’s treasure. They trick him into taking a ride, and he breaks the carousel after he is turned into a small child. All of the age changes are now permanent.

Most of the children end up living with Ida. Riccio and Mosca do not want to go to school, so they continue living in the theater. Barbossa is adopted by Ester, and Scipio works for Victor. Even as a child, Barbossa cannot stop his conniving and stealing tendencies, so Ester sends him to a boarding school where he becomes a bully.

The Thief Lord was originally published in Germany in 2000, and was later translated to English and published in 2002 by The Chicken House publishing company. The novel has won the 2003 Mildred L. Batchelder Award, the 2002 New York Times Notable Book Award, and the 2005 Young Readers Choice Award (Senior Division).

The Thief Lord Summary

Prosper and Bo are two brothers who have run away from their Aunt Esther who wants to separate them. Aust Esther wants to keep the younger, cuter Bo as her own but wants to send Prosper away to boarding school. The boys run to Venice; Aunt Esther and Uncle Max Hartlieb have followed them there. Esther hires a private detective, Victor Getz, to track down the boys.

The boys are living in an abandoned movie theater with three other children, Hornet, Riccio, and Mosca. The children are led by a very mysterious boy called the Thief Lord. They live in a movie theater, which they fondly call the Star-Palace.

The children get a visit from the Thief Lord, Scipio. He brings the children the goods from his most recent raid and tells them to sell the items for cash. The only person who will buy stolen items from children is Ernesto Barbarossa, a fat, shady man with an antiques shop and a large red beard, earning him the nickname “Redbeard” among the children. Prosper begrudgingly agrees to haggle with Barbarossa for a good price.

At Barbarossa’s shop, Prosper gets the desired price, and Barbarossa tells them of a job proposition for the Thief Lord. Prosper and Riccio leave the shop, talking so intently that Prosper runs into a man. It is Victor, the detective, who recognizes Prosper and follows the children. They lose him, but Victor decides to wait in St. Mark’s Square until the boys wander through.

Back at the Star-Palace, Scipio agrees to take the job, and Prosper tells Hornet about the detective who is tracking them. She convinces him that the detective will not find him. The next morning, the boys tell Barbarossa that the Thief Lord accepts, and they go to meet the Conte in St. Mark’s Basilica for further instructions.

At St. Mark’s, Prosper leaves Bo outside with Hornet and goes into the church to meet the Conte, who tells them to steal a wooden wing from Signora Ida Spavento. Outside, in the square, Victor has spotted Bo, and questions him under the pretense of showing him how to feed pigeons. Prosper exits the church and sees Bo speaking with Victor. He grabs Bo, and Victor begins trailing them. Hornet causes a scene, allowing the boys to leave undetected.

Victor searches for the movie theater that Bo had mentioned in their conversation. He finds the owner, Dottore Massimo, who tells his son to get Victor a key. The son is Scipio! Victor recognizes him from the square. Scipio runs to warn his friends.

The children capture Victor and tie him up. During captivity, Victor gets to know Prosper and Bo, and begins to like them. Meanwhile, the children go to stake out Ida Spavento’s house where they will steal the wing.

Back at the hideout, Victor tells them that Scipio is not who they think he is, and sends them to the Massimo’s house where they discover Scipio is the son of Dottore Massimo. Meanwhile, Victor sneaks out, leaving a note promising not to tell the Hartliebs.

The children decide...

(The entire section is 1209 words.)

The Thief Lord Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1 Summary

The Thief Lord begins as Autumn arrives in Venice. The canals and ancient buildings look beautiful, and the air is getting chilly. Victor Getz is happily trying on a new fake mustache when he hears a knock at the door. He reflects that someone must have noticed his sign, which states that he is a private detective willing to help with any type of investigation.

Victor opens the door to a strict and humorless couple, whom he ushers inside. They introduce themselves as Esther and Max Hartlieb. They look around his living room, which doubles as his office, frowning at his collections of cactus plants and fake beards. Victor expects them to request that he find a stolen possession. Instead they ask him to look for their two nephews, twelve-year-old Prosper and five-year-old Boniface, who have run away.

Esther explains that the Prosper and Bo’s mother, her sister, died three months ago. Esther and Max have never had children of their own, so they offered to adopt Bo. However, Esther said:

We couldn’t possibly have taken on his older brother as well. Any reasonable person could see that.

Prosper, according to her, is the opposite of a reasonable person. He reacted to her generous offer “like a lunatic, accusing us of stealing his brother.” Eight weeks ago, Prosper took Bo from their grandfather’s house in Hamburg, Germany, and the two boys ran away. The Hartliebs have spent a great deal of time and money looking for the boys, whom they believe are now in Venice. Their mother loved Venice and often told them stories about the city’s beauty and magic.

Victor has a bad impression of the Hartliebs. He loves Venice, but they deplore the city for its “filth.” They also insist that they never ran away as children, and they clearly cannot imagine why their nephews objected to being separated. In spite of his misgivings, Victor agrees to take the job. It worries him to think of the two young boys taking care of themselves alone.

When the Hartliebs leave, Victor watches them from his balcony, noting how they take no notice of Venice’s beauty as they rush away. “Parents like that are better than no parents at all, right?” he mutters to his pets, two tortoises named Lando and Paula. Victor knows he will have a hard time doing this job. He has lived in Venice for fifteen years, but even he does not know all its hiding places. It is full of narrow alleys and boarded-up buildings, like “one huge invitation to play hide and seek.” Still, he resolves to try his best to find the boys.

Chapter 2 Summary

The Hartliebs are correct: Prosper and Bo are in Venice. The boys are cleaner and better fed than anyone would expect them to be, and they are not alone. As the Hartliebs meet with Victor in his office, the boys are shopping with their new friend Hornet. The shopkeeper smiles at Bo and comments that he is like a little angel. Afterward, the three children walk through the streets of Venice together.

Prosper worries that his aunt may be searching for his brother. He feels it is necessary to keep a low profile, so he shouts at Bo when Bo allows some Japanese tourists to take his picture. Hornet tries to make peace, saying that Esther must have given up on the boys by now, but nothing seems to alleviate Prosper’s...

(The entire section is 409 words.)

Chapter 3 Summary

Hornet, Prosper, and Bo check the street to make sure no passers-by are watching, and then they sneak into the Star-Palace through a disused emergency exit. They ring a bell to announce their presence before entering. They are supposed to use a password, too, but nobody can ever remember the fancy passwords the Thief Lord gives them. Inside, the kids find Riccio, who is sometimes called Hedgehog because of his spiky hair, and Mosca, whose dark skin makes it easy for him to hide in the shadows.

Riccio and Mosca brag that they have spent the day staking out the Palazzo Pisani, the latest fancy house Scipio plans to raid. The Thief Lord calls Riccio and Mosca “his eyes” because they bring him information about the...

(The entire section is 441 words.)

Chapter 4 Summary

Prosper wakes up to see a slender, masked boy sneaking into the theater. It is the Thief Lord, dressed as always in an old-fashioned bird mask, high-heeled boots, and a long black coat. He cannot be older than twelve or thirteen, but he always pretends to be grown up. Everyone gets up to say hello.

Scipio announces that he has completed a new raid, and he shows off a newspaper article about a break-in at a wealthy home known as the Palazzo Contarini. Everyone is impressed that Scipio managed to steal from such a rich place, but Mosca and Riccio are also disappointed. They have been keeping watch at a different house, thinking Scipio planned to rob that one. Scipio tells them that his opportunity at the Palazzo Contarini...

(The entire section is 422 words.)

Chapter 5 Summary

The next day, Prosper and Riccio go to Barbarossa’s junk shop. The interior of the shop is a dimly lit labyrinth of shelves full of glass insects, candlesticks, and so forth. On his way in, Prosper sees a shopper holding a statuette Barbarossa bought from Mosca not long ago. It is now on sale for a hundred times as much money as Barbarossa paid for it.

Barbarossa is a bald man with a bright red beard. He ushers the boys into his office. He pretends not to care that they are there, but Prosper can tell how excited he is to see what they have in their bag of loot. He leaves the boys in his office for a moment while he waits on some customers. The members of the gang have long speculated about whether Barbarossa dyes his...

(The entire section is 419 words.)

Chapter 6 Summary

After Riccio and Prosper leave Barbarossa’s shop, Riccio insists on buying cakes. He says that nobody has ever succeeded in making Barbarossa pay more than his first offer and that Scipio will want Prosper to sell all the loot from now on. As they eat, they talk about what to buy. Prosper thinks of jackets and shoes, but Riccio is more interested in toys and TVs. He asks what fun object Prosper would most like to have, but Prosper does not know.

On the way home, Prosper tries to convince Riccio not to tell the Thief Lord about the job Barbarossa wants him to do. Riccio says this would be crazy. He says he will do the job himself if Scipio does not want it. Prosper struggles to explain why he thinks the offer is bad,...

(The entire section is 425 words.)

Chapter 7 Summary

When Victor sees the boys board the vaporetto, he must admit that he has lost them. He kicks a post and hurts his foot. He limps home, muttering to himself that he is a fool for letting a twelve-year-old boy slip past him so easily. He did not recognize Riccio, but he is sure he did not see Bo. He wonders where the little boy is and whether he is safe. It bothers Victor that Prosper was out on the streets of Venice without Bo.

All the way home, Victor kicks things and mutters to himself. People stare at him, but he ignores them. He tells himself that he never should have taken a job of finding children. He should have stuck to the sorts of jobs he knows better. He does not need the Hartliebs’ money; he has enough work...

(The entire section is 406 words.)

Chapter 8 Summary

Back at the Star Palace, everyone is amazed by the sum of money Prosper has managed to get for the loot. Even Scipio is stunned. He seems oddly troubled, and he asks what Barbarossa liked best. The boys mention the sugar tongs, and Scipio mutters that they must have been valuable.

Scipio sends Riccio to buy bread and sausage, and everyone sits down for a meal. With a cup of grape juice, Hornet toasts the Thief Lord for his stealing abilities and Prosper for his excellent bargaining. Bo often feels impatient with his big brother, but tonight he seems proud. Scipio announces that Prosper will henceforth be “chief loot-seller” but that they had better take a break from stealing for a while. “A thief should never...

(The entire section is 421 words.)

Chapter 9 Summary

That night, Prosper cannot sleep. He gets up and sneaks outside to look at the moonlight on the canal. He thinks about Venice and takes some comfort in the fact that the city’s old buildings have existed since long before he was born. In the short time he has lived in the city, Prosper has fallen in love with it. He feels Venice has welcomed him and Bo; it has provided them safety in its winding alleys, and it has given them a wonderful group of friends. He wants to stay forever.

However, he cannot discount the incident with the detective. If Prosper and Bo are caught, their friends will be in trouble. Mosca comes from a family that does not love him. Riccio comes from an orphanage and does not want to return....

(The entire section is 456 words.)

Chapter 10 Summary

In the morning, Riccio visits Barbarossa to tell him that the Thief Lord will take the job. Barbarossa is pleased, but he admits that he is only a messenger for his client; he does not know exactly what the job is. He says that he will ask his client what the Thief Lord needs to do next. Riccio returns to the shop every day until, three days later, Barbarossa announces that he has received a reply.

Barbarossa is trimming his beard as he explains that his client wants to meet the Thief Lord in the Basilica San Marco. He says that “the Conte” likes to be mysterious but that he is a good business partner. Riccio asks if the man is really a count, and Barbarossa says he is. He suspects that the man is from a family...

(The entire section is 412 words.)

Chapter 11 Summary

In Saint Mark’s Square one afternoon, Victor sits sipping a cappuccino and wondering if he is wasting his time. He stirs some sugar into his little cup and watches the people who pass by. He studies the children in particular, hoping to see Prosper and Bo. Today Victor is not wearing his walrus mustache. He is dressed as a clean-shaven tourist, with glasses, a baseball cap, and a camera. He loves dressing up as a tourist because he fits in with the crowd and because he can take an unlimited number of photographs without looking suspicious.

As he studies the passersby, Victor thinks about how much he likes his work. Detective work is very rewarding—but it can be uncomfortable, too. His nose is getting colder, and he...

(The entire section is 414 words.)

Chapter 12 Summary

Bo stops in the middle of Saint Mark’s Square to look at a group of massive horse statues above the gates of the Basilica. Prosper urges him onward, but Bo balks. He wants to see if the horses will leap down. He has heard from Hornet that they were stolen long ago, so he thinks they must be angry. Prosper grabs Bo’s hand and drags him to a fountain by the side entrance, where Scipio and the others are waiting.

Scipio announces that only Prosper and Mosca are coming inside the Basilica for the meeting with the Conte. Riccio and Bo protest at being excluded. Hornet tells them angrily that the Thief Lord is too arrogant to be seen with little kids and girls. Scipio does not contradict her; he just turns and walks...

(The entire section is 448 words.)

Chapter 13 Summary

Victor watches Prosper go with two friends into the Basilica. Bo stays behind with the girl and the spiky-haired boy. Victor knows he could run in and grab Bo, but he worries that the crowd might think he is a kidnapper and pounce on him if Bo or his friends screamed. Also, when he thinks it over, he realizes that he cannot bring himself to snatch the little boy away from his brother so cruelly. Prosper clearly cares about Bo, so Victor resolves to handle the situation in a more delicate way—gathering information first and biding his time before capturing the boys.

Victor buys a bag of pigeon feed and lures a flock of pigeons to him. They fly up and land all over his arms and on his head. He hates birds, and he...

(The entire section is 426 words.)

Chapter 14 Summary

Scipio swears at Bo for not waiting by the fountain as he was told. Bo, who is still hurt about being excluded from the meeting with the Conte, says that he got bored. Hornet tries to make peace. She claims that Bo was in sight the whole time, so nothing bad could have happened to him.

Like Bo, Riccio and Hornet still feel bad about being left to wait outside during the meeting in the church. They listen only halfheartedly as Mosca and Scipio relate some of the details of their encounter. In the midst of the conversation, Prosper says thoughtfully that the man in the square looked a little like the detective who tried to follow him and Riccio. This is the first Bo has heard of any detective, and he immediately asks if...

(The entire section is 449 words.)

Chapter 15 Summary

Victor watches the door to the little shop and notes when the black boy, the girl, and the spiky-haired boy all come out and walk in opposite directions. Then another boy, a dark-eyed child, comes out. It takes Victor a moment to place the group’s leader without his mask. Nervously, Victor glances back at the window of the shop, where Prosper and Bo are still looking at the junk on the shelves.

Victor is unsure what is going on, but he tells himself that the children cannot know he is watching. He has changed his disguise; besides, he is keeping watch through a reflection in another window. The children are probably all splitting up to go home for lunch. Bo’s story about a gang living together in a movie theater...

(The entire section is 476 words.)

Chapter 16 Summary

The kids return to the Star-Palace; they are thrilled with themselves for having given the detective the slip. Hornet gives Victor’s wallet to Prosper and begs him not to be mad at her for stealing. She explains that she wanted Prosper to have as much information about Victor as he could. As Prosper is beginning to take a look, Scipio calls everyone to come and see the contents of the Conte’s envelope.

The kids study the floor plan of the house the Thief Lord is supposed to burgle. Then they look over the picture of the object the Conte wants them to find. It is a wooden wing, apparently broken. Scipio is obviously disappointed that such an object is deemed worthy of the Thief Lord’s attention, but Hornet suggests...

(The entire section is 465 words.)

Chapter 17 Summary

For three days, Victor stays near home, nursing his injuries and his wounded pride. He thinks carefully about his encounter with the kids, and he remembers that Bo said he and his friends live together in an abandoned movie theater. Victor still doubts that this could be true, but it is his only solid lead.

One of Victor’s tortoises is sick, and he has to take it to the vet. On his way, he stops at an old, run-down movie theater. The ticket seller tells him that the owner of her theater, a man named Dottor Massimo, also owns a recently closed theater called the Stella. Victor calls Dottor Massimo and asks about the Stella. The doctor immediately assumes that Victor wants to buy the building and asks Victor to come see...

(The entire section is 524 words.)

Chapter 18 Summary

Hornet, Mosca, and Riccio have spent the past two days watching the house they are supposed to rob. Now they sit in the Star-Palace discussing what they have learned. They know when the owner of the house, Signora Ida Spavento, likes to go out in the morning as well as what she does for a living. They know about her housekeeper, who normally spends the whole day in the house with her dogs. Most days at lunchtime, the housekeeper’s husband visits. He “looks as if he eats children for breakfast.” The housekeeper takes her dogs home at night, and Signora Spavento goes to bed early.

The boys claim it will be easy to break in during the night, but Hornet is not so sure. She points out all the weaknesses in their...

(The entire section is 411 words.)

Chapter 19 Summary

Victor does not have a key to the door of the Stella, but he goes to the old theater anyway. He sets his turtle carefully by the door and picks the lock. He knows that Scipio must have warned the children to run away by now, so he makes no effort to be quiet. When he finds the door barricaded with garbage, he shoves his way past it, wondering idly how a rich boy like Scipio fits in with a gang of runaways.

As he tiptoes into the auditorium, Victor uses a small flashlight to see where he is going. Something brushes past his face, and he jerks back in surprise before realizing it is just a pigeon. He stumbles on something and looks down at a row of mattresses. He takes in all the toys, stuffed animals, and comic...

(The entire section is 422 words.)

Chapter 20 Summary

The children put Victor on top of a blanket on the cold tiles of the theater’s men’s room. He lies in the darkness, all tied up, and feels angry at himself for being caught and trapped by a group of mere children. As he struggles against his ropes, he hears someone coming. When he sees it is Prosper, he feels relieved. Prosper removes the gag from Victor’s mouth and sits looking at him.

Victor asks Prosper to untie him. When Prosper refuses, Victor sends him to get the box by the front door. Prosper comes back laughing that a detective carries a tortoise around with him. Victor says sternly that the children will be “in a lot of trouble” if the tortoise, Paula, is hurt. Prosper lets her out of the box for a...

(The entire section is 441 words.)

Chapter 21 Summary

In the morning, Prosper buys bread but the children are all too worried to eat. They sip coffee and talk about what to do with the detective. Riccio wants to drop him in a canal so he cannot report them for living in the Stella. Some of the others want to hold him hostage for a few days until they can finish the Conte’s job, after which they will be able to afford a home on one of the small islands in the lagoon that surrounds Venice.

Mosca offers to take a cup of coffee to Victor, and Riccio complains that the others should not be so nice to their captive. “This is our...home. The best home we’ve ever had. And he spoiled it all,” Riccio complains. He begins to cry, and the others realize that the Star-Palace...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Chapter 22 Summary

Prosper has not left the Star-Palace for almost three days, and he wants some fresh air. He goes with Riccio and Hornet to meet Scipio and discuss their information on the house they are supposed to rob for the Conte. Mosca offers to watch the prisoner, and Bo stays behind to play with the tortoise.

The children wait near the house long after the time Scipio is supposed to meet them, but he does not come. The modest home does not look like the sort of place that would hold a treasure worth millions of lire. Hornet goes back to worrying that they do not have enough information about the interior, and Riccio has an idea. When he spots the housekeeper walking home with some groceries and her dogs, he purposely runs into...

(The entire section is 486 words.)

Chapter 23 Summary

When Prosper, Riccio, and Hornet arrive home at the Star-Palace, they find Victor with his hands untied, laughing and helping to fix Mosca’s radio. Mosca says that Victor has promised not to run away. Bo insists that Victor is now their friend. Riccio protests, but nobody is willing to help him tie Victor back up.

When Hornet tells the others that Scipio did not meet them as planned, Victor acts thoughtful and asks how much they know about the Thief Lord. Mosca says they do not talk about the past very often. However, Scipio once told the gang that he was an orphan. Supposedly he lived for a while with an old thief who taught him how to steal and how to survive. Victor does not tell the children that this story is a...

(The entire section is 428 words.)

Chapter 24 Summary

All the children go together to the address Victor has given them. The house is so big and beautiful that they feel shabby just looking at it. They argue about whether they should ring the bell or just watch and wait. Hornet suggests letting Bo ring because he looks like a little angel, but Prosper will not let his brother take the risk alone. The two of them ring the bell together.

A maid answers the door, and Prosper asks if she knows a boy named Scipio. The children’s shabbiness makes her suspicious until Bo smiles at her and claims that Scipio told them they could come over to play. She lets them in and makes them wait on a bench by a fountain while she calls Scipio down. Bo plays happily as they wait, but Prosper...

(The entire section is 430 words.)

Chapters 25-26 Summary

When the children return to the Star-Palace, Victor has escaped. They find a note from him promising not to tell anyone about their hideout or to call Prosper and Bo’s aunt and uncle—as long as the children do not do their robbery. Riccio wants to go catch Victor again, but Mosca points out that they have no way of doing so.

When Prosper realizes that the other children want to do the Conte’s job, he is shocked. He takes Hornet aside and begs her to rethink the decision. Now that they know Scipio has never stolen anything in his life, they have no reason to think he can help them steal the wing. Hornet says they do not need Scipio to help them:

The Conte won’t care who gets the wing...

(The entire section is 616 words.)

Chapter 27 Summary

The children follow Ida Spavento into her kitchen. Most of them sit down at the table, but Scipio lurks in the doorway; he knows he is unwelcome. Ida makes coffee for herself and pours juice for the children. Then she tells her story.

A long time ago, a rich merchant gave a beautiful merry-go-round to a local orphanage. Shortly afterward, rumors began flying around Venice. People said that the merry-go-round was magical and that strange things happened to the people who rode on the backs of its animals: a unicorn, a seahorse, a winged lion, a merman, and a mermaid. According to these wild stories, the ride could turn children into adults or adults into children. One day the orphans and nuns went out for a field trip,...

(The entire section is 441 words.)

Chapter 28 Summary

It is getting light outside by the time the children return to the Star-Palace. They write a message claiming that they have stolen the wing. Then they carry the pigeon out to the canal and release it into the air. As they watch it fly away, Prosper reminds everyone that the Conte told them he would send his reply through Barbarossa. The Conte said he would answer them the day after they released the pigeon, so Prosper guesses that the Conte’s home cannot be far away. Scipio disagrees. He says pigeons can fly long distances very quickly, so they have no way of knowing how far away the Conte may be.

This statement calls everyone’s attention back to their disgust with Scipio, and they all tell Scipio to go home....

(The entire section is 454 words.)

Chapter 29 Summary

The next morning, Prosper, Hornet, and Bo go to Barbarossa’s shop. Barbarossa has a runny nose and bloodshot eyes, and he complains that winter is hard on him. He is in a foul mood, and he sneers at the children, saying their young bodies do not feel the cold as adults’ do.

Barbarossa pretends not to know why the children are there. He asks if the Thief Lord has loot to sell, and they ask for the message from the Conte. Barbarossa says he has a letter from the Contessa, the Conte’s sister, but he refuses to hand it over right away. He presses the children to tell him more about the robbery. Rather than answer, Prosper grabs the letter from Barbarossa’s hands.

Barbarossa changes his tone; he is...

(The entire section is 431 words.)

Chapter 30 Summary

After his cold night on the floor of the bathroom at the Star-Palace, Victor gets sick. For two days, he stays in bed and is hardly able to get up. On Tuesday afternoon, when he is supposed to meet with the Hartliebs, he forces himself to get up and make his way to their hotel. He arrives late and undisguised.

The Hartliebs receive Victor in their room, where they sit with their backs to the spectacular view of Venice in snow. Victor tells the couple that he tracked Prosper and Bo to a gang of child thieves who live in the city. He claims that one of the thieves recognized him and that Prosper and Bo took this boy’s warning and left Venice on a ferry to Corfu. Victor feels awkward and wrong as he lies, and he wishes...

(The entire section is 429 words.)

Chapter 31 Summary

That night, Hornet feeds Bo hot milk with honey and then settles down to read to him from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Within a few minutes, Bo is fast asleep, cuddled up next to Hornet’s body. As soon as he closes his eyes, Hornet nods good-bye to the rest of the gang. Prosper tiptoes out with Mosca and Riccio. It is almost time for the meeting with the Conte.

The three boys fit easily in Mosca’s little rowboat. They make their way to the northern part of the city, which Prosper has only seen once in the past. The houses there are not quite as big as are the houses in the city center, but they are still very old. The boys tie up by the shore and wait.

Ida Spavento comes in her own...

(The entire section is 442 words.)

Chapter 32 Summary

When the boys arrive at the meeting place, the Conte is waiting in a boat. A cloaked figure stands beside him. Prosper hands over the wing, and the cloaked figure pushes off its hood. It is a woman who, like the count, is old. She gives Scipio a bag of money and demands to know how old he is. “With this money, I can be as grown-up as I want to be,” Scipio says. This makes the woman laugh. She comments that different people have different dreams. The Conte explains that he and the old woman want the exact opposite of what Scipio wants.

The boys row back to Ida Spavento and count the money hurriedly as she watches the Conte steer his boat toward the lagoon. Giaco, the sour-faced man driving Ida's boat, turns on the...

(The entire section is 604 words.)

Chapter 33 Summary

When Prosper, Mosca, and Riccio arrive home at the Star-Palace, they find the door unlocked. This makes them all nervous, but Mosca says maybe Hornet just wanted to make sure they could get in if she fell asleep. Inside the auditorium, they find candles still lit. Hornet is usually very careful about fire, so the boys’ uneasiness increases.

When find Hornet’s bed empty, they think at first that she and Bo may be hiding. They call out and say they are too tired for games. Riccio shouts that they now have “piles of money.” When they hear no response, a feeling of dread descends on Prosper. Then Riccio finds a note from Hornet in which she says she can hear someone, maybe police, trying to get in. She is taking Bo...

(The entire section is 418 words.)

Chapter 34 Summary

Ida drops Scipio off two blocks from home. He walks slowly through the snowy streets, feeling “strong and free.” He does his best not to spoil the feeling with memories of his fight with the gang or with the knowledge that he will soon be back in the mansion where he is made to feel “small and weak” all the time.

When Scipio is almost home, he spots a police boat parked outside his house. His heart is pounding as he opens the front door and sneaks inside. Moments later, two police officers walk down the stairs holding Hornet between them. It turns out that they caught her in the Stella. When the Massimos’ maid discovered that Scipio was missing, the police brought Hornet to be questioned by the doctor.

...

(The entire section is 445 words.)

Chapter 35 Summary

Victor spends the whole night following someone through the freezing city for another case. When he comes home cold and tired, he does not notice the boys waiting for him until Prosper shoves the gun in his face. Victor is not afraid; he merely pushes the gun aside and says that the does not want to play games. When the boys accuse him of telling the police about their hideout, Victor is offended. He tells them he gave them his word of honor and did not break it.

The boys quickly decide to believe that Victor is telling the truth. He gives them some food, and they tell him the story of their latest adventures. Victor says that he would not believe it if he did not already know the children. He murmurs that Ida Spavento...

(The entire section is 420 words.)

Chapter 36 Summary

Riccio, Mosca, and Victor carry all of the gang’s possessions to Ida Spavento’s house. After what he has heard about Ida from the children, Victor thinks she is crazy and expects to dislike her. However, his first impression of her is positive. She dresses oddly, but she gives off the impression that she is a kind person.

When Ida sees Riccio and Mosca, she asks what is going on. They give her a tumbling summary of their problems, including the capture of Hornet and Bo, the loss of their hideout, and the counterfeit payment from the Conte. After this last bit, Victor shouts at Ida for involving the children in her “harebrained adventure” looking for the magical merry-go-round.

Ida does not bother...

(The entire section is 492 words.)

Chapter 37 Summary

Hornet sits on her bed in the orphanage. She closes her eyes and thinks of the hideout in the Star-Palace and imagines the voices of her friends. The Star-Palace was cold, but to Hornet the orphanage feels colder. It is lunchtime, and although Hornet is hungry, she cannot eat. She thinks of the spaghetti Mosca always made. He made it too salty, and he usually burned it—but it is the only thing she can imagine wanting to eat right now.

Hornet looks out the window and sees an adult couple walking in through the gates. She wonders if they are planning to adopt a child. She knows they will not adopt her; people only want to adopt little children. Older kids, like Hornet, just have to survive until they grow up. Hornet...

(The entire section is 474 words.)

Chapter 38 Summary

Riccio eventually finds Prosper outside the hotel where Esther and Max Hartlieb are staying with Bo. Prosper is standing completely still, staring up at the beautiful building, ignoring the crowds of people shoving past him. Riccio says he has been looking for Prosper all day.

Prosper still seems dazed by the loss of his brother. He explains that he has spent the day following his aunt and uncle and Bo. Aunt Esther wasted no time making Bo look like a proper little angel. She had the black ink cut out of his hair and she bought him all new clothes—including a bow tie that he threw away. They took him to several restaurants but he refused to eat. Once, he must have spotted Prosper because he tried to run...

(The entire section is 427 words.)

Chapter 39 Summary

That evening, Ida throws a party for the children and Victor. Lucia, the housekeeper, cooks a feast. Victor keeps coming into the kitchen to try to taste the food, but Lucia slaps his hands to keep him away. Mosca and Riccio chase each other around the house with Lucia’s dogs barking at their heels. Hornet sticks close to Prosper, who spends the evening brooding over the loss of his brother.

Riccio and Mosca have hidden the Conte’s counterfeit money, and they claim they are planning to try to spend it. When Victor hears about this, he advises against it and tries to make them tell him where the money is. They refuse, and he decides to let it go. He keeps thinking he should go home, but Ida keeps handing him another...

(The entire section is 509 words.)

Chapter 40 Summary

Prosper and Scipio get lost twice on the way to the Isola Segreta. When they finally find it, Scipio steers the boat around back. A huge wall surrounds the entire island. They know two huge mastiffs guard the front entrance gate, but they hope to climb the wall and sneak onto the island from the back without alerting anyone.

The boys manage to get over the wall, but they do not find the merry-go-round. They search through a maze of paths. When they come to a set of their own footprints in the snow, they realize they are walking in circles. They do not even know which direction they need to go to get back to Dottor Massimo’s boat.

Before the boys can decide what to do next, Prosper hears a growling sound...

(The entire section is 419 words.)

Chapter 41 Summary

Late that night, Victor’s phone rings and wakes him up. He drags himself out of bed to answer it. The caller is Esther Hartlieb. She says Bo has run away again and she and her husband want nothing more to do with the little boy. She goes on to say:

My husband has always said that the boy wasn’t right for us and that he’s just like my sister. But he has such an angel face.

Apparently Bo pulled a tablecloth off a table in the best restaurant in town, then he left his aunt and uncle with pasta in their laps while he ran away. Esther sobs as she complains that Bo spent the whole day defying them. First he refused to speak, and then he screamed so much that the hotel workers...

(The entire section is 545 words.)

Chapter 42 Summary

When Victor knocks on Ida’s door, he finds her awake, along with Riccio, Mosca, and Hornet. They all rush to the door, but they look confused when they see him. Then Hornet notices that Victor has Bo, sleeping in his arms, and she cries out in shock. Although Victor his curious to hear what is going on, he is more concerned with his aching arms. He asks where he can set Bo down, and Ida takes him to her attic. Victor tucks the little boy into one of the attic beds, wrapping him in an extra blanket to make sure he stays warm.

Ida and the other children watch Victor tuck Bo in. When he turns around, it occurs to him that Prosper is not among them. Ida explains that this is why they all got up in the middle of the night....

(The entire section is 449 words.)

Chapter 43 Summary

In the morning, Prosper and Scipio wake up when the doors of the barn open. The little girl who captured them is back. She tells them to come into the house and see her brother. The boys do not know whom she means, and she refuses to explain. She threatens them with the two mastiffs, and the boys follow her to the Valaresso mansion. It is falling apart, but they can see that it was once a rich and beautiful palace. It is decorated with crumbling stone statues, peeling paint frescoes, and chipped tile mosaics. They try to look around, but the little girl shouts at them to move quickly.

The girl leads them into a large room where a fire burns in the hearth. The floor is covered with toys: balls and rocking horses, dolls...

(The entire section is 630 words.)

Chapter 44 Summary

Renzo takes Scipio and Prosper into an overgrown garden maze. Scipio is so eager to get to the merry-go-round that he is shaking all over. As they walk, they hear the bell ring at the gates of the island. Renzo hesitates. He says he is not expecting anybody except Barbarossa, who should not arrive until tomorrow. He explains that he and his sister make their living by selling the Valaressos’ old treasures to Barbarossa, who thinks they are the Conte and Contessa. This arrangement suits Renzo and Morosina, who only want to remain on the island because they know the secret of the stolen merry-go-round. It has taken them years to make its magic work again.

Renzo wants to go back and see who is at the gates, but Scipio...

(The entire section is 551 words.)

Chapter 45 Summary

Barbarossa stayed on the merry-go-round far too long. He is extremely small—smaller even than Bo. Scipio fishes the broken wing out of the bushes and stares at it; he looks frightened. He suggests having a new wing made, but Renzo says that the Valaressos tried that. The merry-go-round does not work without the original, and there is no way to repair the splintered wing that is left. Scipio shouts at Barbarossa for ruining his plans and making him stay an adult forever. Barbarossa, who still thinks Scipio is Dottor Massimo, is confused—but he quickly thinks of a way to use this new information for blackmail. Scipio laughs at his angry threats, pointing out that nobody will believe “such a little squirt.”

Renzo,...

(The entire section is 414 words.)

Chapter 46 Summary

Scipio and Prosper arrive back in Venice in the early afternoon. Less than a full day has passed, but Prosper feels as if he is returning home from a long and harrowing journey. Scipio has locked Barbarossa in the cabin of the boat. As they dock, he whines that he wants to come out. They ignore him and look back to watch for Renzo, who is sailing behind them in Barbarossa’s boat. He ties up to the dock and says offhand that he likes Barbarossa’s boat and plans to keep it for a while. Barbarossa is outraged at this idea, but he can do nothing to stop it.

Barbarossa is wearing Scipio’s old clothes, which are smaller than his adult clothes but still much too big for him. He stalks through the streets of Venice trying...

(The entire section is 455 words.)

Chapter 47 Summary

Ida, Victor, Hornet, Riccio, Mosca, and Bo spend the whole day searching for Prosper. They are all horribly worried, especially when they recall how upset Prosper felt at losing Bo. Bo will neither speak nor let go of Victor’s hand. The gang splits up to check over all the places they can imagine Prosper might have gone, but they cannot find him anywhere.

In the afternoon, Ida and Hornet come home and meet Victor; he is carrying Bo, who is asleep. When they enter Ida’s house, they hear voices coming from inside. Hornet offers to go find out who is there, but Victor says he is the one who should do dangerous jobs like that. Ida insists on coming along because the house belongs to her, and they enter her kitchen...

(The entire section is 398 words.)

Chapter 48 Summary

That night, everyone eats spaghetti at Ida’s house. Lucia, the housekeeper, does not complain about having to cook for so many people except to comment grumpily that people are taking advantage of her employer’s generosity. Ida and Barbarossa are missing as the meal begins, but the children start eating anyway. They all keep looking nervously at Scipio, who sits at the head of the table. Except for a few familiar gestures, he looks like a stranger to them. He keeps smiling at them to try to put them at ease, but it does not work.

Victor urges Scipio to go visit his parents and explain what has happened. Scipio says they do not care about him and that he only wants to sneak in and say good-bye to his cats. Victor...

(The entire section is 468 words.)

Chapter 49 Summary

Barbarossa feels he is too important to sleep alongside the other children, so he stays on Ida’s couch for the night. Ida is afraid to let him run around her house unsupervised, so she locks him in. Luckily he does not hear her doing it. Ida sends the other children upstairs and sees Victor out; then she goes to bed, too.

Scipio is gone. He left after dinner and refused to say where he was going. This felt familiar to the other children, none of whom can stop thinking about the life they enjoyed in the Star-Palace, with its mattresses and its curtain. Ida’s attic is much different, although Ida has hung up the piece of curtain Victor brought from the theater.

The children are all tired, but they cannot...

(The entire section is 467 words.)

Chapter 50 Summary

In the morning, Victor buys a newspaper. A picture of Scipio, as a child, is on the front page with an appeal for people to help find the boy and return him to his home. Ida asks the children, but they do not know where Scipio is. She talks to Victor, who agrees that they need to get some message to Scipio’s family. Ida writes a note saying that Scipio is unhurt, that he has a place to sleep, and that he is safe. She explains that he does not want to come home and that she is not able to say more.

Barbarossa demands to see Prosper and Bo’s aunt so he “can have a look at her.” Everyone cringes at the way he orders them around, but Ida decides to call Esther Hartlieb anyway. Victor demands to know why Ida is doing...

(The entire section is 410 words.)

Chapter 51 Summary

The next day, shortly before Esther’s appointment, all of the real children go to the café across the street from Ida’s house and order ice cream sundaes. Most of them eat enthusiastically, but Proper pokes at his sundae and stares out the window. When Esther approaches, he points her out to Hornet. Hornet is surprised; she thought Esther would be “taller—and sort of more sinister.”

Lucia, as a nun, ushers Esther into Ida’s pantry, which has been changed to look like an office. Ida is dressed in a habit and sitting at a desk beneath a picture of the Madonna and Child. Victor is there too, undisguised. Ida explains that she invited him because he was in charge of the search for Prosper and Bo.

...

(The entire section is 467 words.)

Chapter 52 Summary

Esther Hartlieb remains in Venice a few days longer than planned, taking little “Ernesto” Barbarossa to see the sights every day. One evening he comes home finely dressed in the most expensive children’s clothes available in Venice. Prosper and Bo are playing a game on the floor with Ida and their friends. Barbarossa stands over them and calls them idiots for running away from such a rich aunt. Ida barely looks up as she says that Barbarossa probably has “a wallet for a heart.” Barbarossa takes his wallet from his pocket and asks Ida and Victor to look after his shop for a few years. He is leaving Venice with Esther Hartlieb, who has offered to adopt him.

After that news is settled, Mosca announces that he and...

(The entire section is 439 words.)

Chapter 53 Summary

Scipio is much happier with his new life in Victor’s tiny flat than he ever was in the Massimo mansion. Scipio cannot call himself Massimo anymore, so he chooses a new name for himself: Scipio Fortunato. When he first begins to work as a detective, Victor protests that he will never put another name on the sign by his door. Six months later, however, he changes his mind and adds the new name to the sign.

Nobody ever asks Scipio if he is sorry he went on the merry-go-round, but his name suggests that he feels glad about the way his life has changed. He sends his father a card, as Victor insists, to make clear that he is all right. He claims that he is going to travel and will not return for a long time. Dottor Massimo...

(The entire section is 435 words.)

Ed. Scott Locklear