Originally published in Germany in 2000, Cornelia Funke’s young adult novel The Thief Lord is a story about a group of street children living in Venice, Italy, who are intertwined in mystery, intrigue, and long forgotten secrets. The novel explores the themes of family, friendship, identity, and youth and aging.

To Prosper, staying with his true family, his brother, is the most important thing in the world. Prosper and Bo have family who do not appreciate or love them. Aunt Esther and Uncle Max Hartlieb do not want Bo because they love him, but rather because he is little and cute. Scipio as well has a family who does not appreciate him. It appears that his mother is no longer living, and his father is constantly disappointed in him. Dottore Massimo wants Scipio to be like a pet, obedient and small, acting like a puppet, with Dottore Massimo pulling the strings. Together, the children find that family does not necessarily mean the people who gave birth to you, but rather, family means the people that support you and care for you. Family is really about love. The children become a family as they work and live together, and Victor and Ida become like parents to many of the children.

Friendship is another theme that is prevalent in the novel. The children readily accept each other as friends because they are united by a common front: survival. Even though Scipio is not really an orphan, he leads the others to believe he is, so they embrace him as a friend. When the truth comes out and he is revealed as the son of the wealthy Dottore Massimo, the friendship is destroyed for a while, because he has lied to the others. Prosper, however, is the only one that can see through Scipio’s bravado and realizes that he is in some ways just as much an orphan as the rest of the children are, because he lives without love from his father, and lives in fear of Dottore Massimo. Scipio must gain back that friendship by proving himself to the others. Victor and Ida, however, must work...

(The entire section is 812 words.)