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).

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 to...

(The entire section is 1209 words.)