Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Wacky characters bring energy to this translation of an entertaining German novel about thieving children, a disguise-obsessed detective and a magical merry-go-round. After their mother dies, 12-year-old Prosper and his brother, Bo, five, flee from Hamburg to Venice (an awful aunt plans to adopt only Bo). They live in an abandoned movie theater with several other street children under the care of the Thief Lord, a cocky youth who claims to rob "the city's most elegant houses." A mysterious man hires the Thief Lord to steal a wooden wing, which the kids later learn has broken off a long-lost merry-go-round said to make "adults out of children and children out of adults," but the plan alters when Victor, the detective Aunt Esther hired to track the brothers, discovers their camp and reveals that the Thief Lord is actually from a wealthy family. There are a lot of story lines to follow, and the pacing is sometimes off (readers may feel that Funke spends too little time on what happens when the children find the carousel, and too much on the ruse they pull on Prosper's aunt). But between kindhearted Victor and his collection of fake beards, the Thief Lord in his mask and high-heeled boots, and a rascally street kid who loves to steal, Prosper's new world abounds with colorful characters. The Venetian setting is ripe for mystery and the city's alleys and canals ratchet up the suspense in the chase scenes. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 6-8-Actor Simon Jones does an excellent job of giving voice to Cornelia Funke's mystery adventure tale which has won several European children's literature awards (Scholastic, 2002). This Dickensian story begins in modern times in detective Victor Getz's office in Venice as he is asked to search for Esther Hartlieb's orphaned nephews, Prosper and Bo, who ran away when they learned Esther was going to adopt five-year-old Bo but send Prosper away to a boarding school. The boys came to Venice because their dead mother had often lovingly described the beauties of the city to them. They wind up in an abandoned movie theater with other runaways who are working for Scipio, a young boy they call the "Thief Lord." The evil Barbarossa who accepts their stolen goods asks them to steal a special broken wooden wing that came from an old, magical merry-go-round which can transport riders backward or forward in time. The plot is full of twists and surprises, and the characters are vividly described. The excellent descriptive passages make it easy to picture the characters and setting. Loyalty, honor among thieves, and whether it's better to be an adult or a child are some of the themes explored in this fast-paced, spellbinding tale.-Diane Balodis, Alden Intermediate School, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 6^-9. There are shards of wonderful stories in this ambitious narrative, but they don't quite cohere into a shimmering whole. That said, this is still a pretty nifty adventure set as brilliantly in its Venetian setting as a baroque pearl. Twelve-year-old Prosper and five-year-old Boniface cling to the stories their mother told them of Venice, with its winged lions and rooftop angels. After her death, they run away from Hamburg and their pinch-faced relatives to Venice, where a motley crew of children, living in an abandoned movie theatre, takes them in. The leader is Scipio, the Thief Lord, who directs the petty thievery and acts as older brother to the group. Victor, a gentle detective, has been hired to find the brothers, and he does so quickly, but is bemused by their ragtag family and is loathe to hand them over to the aunt. Funke beguiles young readers as she paints the city of Venice in exquisite strokes; the affection between the brothers is sweetly rendered. However, a fantasy element surfaces barely 100 pages from the end where it startles and distracts. It fits with the Venetian setting but not with the structure of the story. This German import is a popular choice in Europe. GraceAnne A. DeCandido
Horn Book Review
(Intermediate) The story opens with a solitary bachelor detective, Victor, accepting a commission to find two runaway brothers: Prosper, the older boy (who is not wanted); and Boniface, or Bo, who looks like an angel and is therefore dear to his childless (and humorless) aunt. The brothers have run away to Venice to avoid being separated and are living with a gang of thieving orphans presided over by the boyish, cocky Thief Lord. As Victor's sympathies begin to shift from the aunt to the brothers, the gang of thieves becomes entangled in a caper that involves stealing a wooden wing from a carved lion-the missing piece of a carousel that magically turns old people young again and makes children grow to adults in an instant. The problem is not the wing's owner, artist Ida Spavento-she actually helps them, provided she can follow along to discover where the wing will be taken. The real complication is the Thief Lord, whose identity turns out to be smaller-than-life and whose attraction to the magic of the carousel draws the gang into further danger. The story moves at a slow pace, lingering in explanatory dialogue and descriptions of Venice, but the idiosyncrasy and resonance of the central carousel image create a potent, continental atmosphere that laces the tale with a bit of excitement. In the course of pursuing the carousel's mystery, Victor and Ida and the brothers fob off Prosper and Bo's aunt with the kind of child she really wants and band together as a new kind of family-a sweet and comforting conclusion that will satisfy readers whose hearts have been touched by the loyalty and courage of the two brothers and the rewarded generosity of their new foster parents. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
When the orphans Prosper, 12, and Boniface, 5, run away from Hamburg to Venice to escape separation by their aunt and uncle Hartlieb, the crotchety, childless couple hires private detective Victor Getz to find Bo, the only brother they want. Prop and Bo feel at home with their new comrades (three other orphans who survive by picking pockets, but are otherwise harmless) in an abandoned movie theater. Their ringleader, the mysterious Thief Lord, appears from time to time with stolen riches that he gives to his poor friends. Harrowing and comical escapades abound when the Thief Lord accepts a job that will leave him and his friends financially secure-to steal a wing from a wooden lion statue. This wing, which belongs to the unconventional, kindhearted photographer Ida Spavento, is no ordinary piece of wood, but rather the missing piece to a hidden, magical merry-go-round rumored to turn children into adults and adults into children. As the children win over Ida, and even Victor, this new band of outcasts rescues one another from perilous events and scheming villains; ventures to the bewitched Secret Isle from which, as more rumors have it, no one ever returns; finds the missing merry-go-round; and creates the perfect solution. The magical city of Venice, with its moonlit waters, maze of canals, and magnificent palaces, is an excellent setting for the plot twists and turns in this fantasy/mystery/adventure, all rolled into one spellbinding story. A bestselling author in Germany, who has reached the US for the first time, Funke delights readers in the feelings of childhood, what it feels like to be innocent, afraid, curious, and safe; need friends and love; and want independence yet also to be cared for. Although the core of this tale is heartwarming, the merry-go-round, like Ray Bradbury's carousel in Something Wicked This Way Comes, hints at darkness, leaving its riders and the novel's readers changed forever. (map, glossary, not seen) (Fiction. 10-14)