Last night I finished a re-read of The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. It has been years since I read it last, and I had forgotten most of what happened in the book. It is still a fun, but somewhat sad read.
The story follows two brothers – Prosper and Bo – who have recently lost their parents. Bo was supposed to go live with their aunt and uncle, but they did not want Prosper. He was going to be sent to a boarding school, and he would only get to see his beloved little brother once a month or less. The brothers are very close, so they don’t want to be separated. We also discover that the aunt and uncle don’t really want kids after all. The aunt seems to want a doll to play with rather than an imperfect child to care for and love.
The boys run away to Venice and meet up with a gang of kids who live in an abandoned movie theatre. They live off of what their friend, the Thief Lord, is able to steal for them. The aunt and uncle travel to Venice and hire a private detective to find the kids, but they really only want Bo. Thus the adventure begins for the kids.
The story is a fun but sad story. It is similar to Oliver Twist in some ways. I enjoyed it as much this time as I did the first. It did make me reflect on current events in my own town today. How many kids are caught up in the homelessness debate that continues in my city? How many kids are living on the streets like this – fending for themselves? They become invisible to us as do most homeless people unless they are right in front of us.
The book also made me reflect on the state of the foster care system and group homes for children in the United States. We don’t have orphanages like Eliza Hamilton’s New York City orphanage anymore or like the orphanage run by the nuns from the book. Instead, children become wards of the state. I have read posts online recently about donating your old luggage to the foster care system instead of Goodwill (or similar organizations), because the children end up having to move all of their belongings in garbage bags when they do not have luggage. It is dehumanizing and conveys the message that the kids’ belongings are garbage.
What do we do to make things better for our homeless? For kids in the foster care system? For those who are struggling and don’t have access to the lifestyles that we do? How do we make this better? I don’t want to live in a world where kids have to carry their only belongings from home to home in garbage bags. I don’t want to live in a society where we cast off these kids and pretend they don’t exist until we encounter them or their stories. I don’t want to live in a world where we complain about the “homeless problem” instead of developing solutions to the problem that benefit all.
Those are my thoughts after reading this book. I think the message is great for kids, but I also think most adults would do well to read it as well. There is a lot to think about packed into the approximately 350 pages of this book. Off to eat breakfast, read a little more, and then head to work. Until next time, Happy Reading!