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Cornelia (Caroline) Funke (1958-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights

Born 1958, in Dorsten, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Scholastic, Inc., 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.


Author and illustrator.

Honors Awards

Zurich children's book award, 2000, Vienna House of Literature award, 2001, and Torchlight prize, Askews Library Services, 2003, all for The Thief Lord.

Cornelia Funke


(And illustrator) Herr der Diebe, Cecelie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 2000, translation by Oliver Latsch published as The Thief Lord, Chicken House/Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.

(And illustrator) Tintenherz, Cecelie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 2003, translation by Anthea Bell published as Inkheart, Chicken House/Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

Princess Knight (juvenile), illustrated by Kerstin Meyer, Chicken House/Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

Author of German-language books for children.


The Thief Lord was adapted for audio (five cassettes), read by Simon Jones, Listening Library, 2002.


Cornelia Funke is the author of books for children, and in her native Germany, she is the most popular children's book writer after J. K. Rowling and R. L. Stine. When her first English translation, The Thief Lord, was introduced in England, it sold out in ten days. In the United States, it reached number two on the New York Times children's bestseller list. The book was edited by Barry Cunningham, the man who recognized Rowling's talent and published her "Harry Potter" series in England. Inkheart, her second book, was also successful. Funke had no plans to become a children's author, but when she began illustrating books by others, she decided to write her own. She was well known in Germany when she had her self-illustrated The Thief Lord translated—by her cousin, because no one else would do it.

The Thief Lord is about orphan brothers Prosper, twelve, and Boniface (Bo), five, who run away when their childless aunt and uncle decide that they only want Bo. Before she died, the boys' mother had told them about the wonders of Venice, Italy, so that is where they head when they flee Hamburg, Germany. Their insensitive relatives then hire private detective Victor Getz to find Bo. A Kirkus Reviews contributor felt that "the magical city of Venice, with its moonlit waters, maze of canals, and magnificent palaces, is an excellent setting" for this "spellbinding story."

Prosper and Bo find refuge in an abandoned movie theater, where they live with other street children. Their hideout is fitted with blankets and mattresses, and there are kittens to be petted and comic books and paperbacks to be read. Scipio, who is living a dual life, is The Thief Lord, a twelve-year-old boy who steals from the rich to support this band of pickpockets and petty thieves and who wears a mask and boots that give him the appearance of a Robin Hood-like figure. New York Times Book Review contributor Rebecca Pepper Sinkler called the girl Hornet "a Wendy for the twenty-first century, she rides herd on the lost boys but doesn't do their laundry."

Scipio usually deals in jewels, which he sells to a fence, but accepts a job to steal a broken wooden wing from a carved lion. The lion is part of a magic carousel that has the power to change children into adults and adults into children. Photographer Ida Spavento, who owns the wing, agrees to give it up as long as the children keep her involved in finding the merry-go-round, and Victor, who begins as an agent of the aunt and uncle, soon finds himself drawn to the plight of the children. Anita L. Burkam wrote in Horn Book that The Thief Lord has a "sweet and comforting conclusion that will satisfy readers whose hearts have been touched" by the characters.

School Library Journal critic John Peters called the book "a compelling tale, rich in ingenious twists, with a setting and cast that will linger in readers' memories," while Sinkler maintained that "what lifts this radiant novel beyond run-of-the-mill fantasy is its palpable respect for both the struggle to grow up and the mixed blessings of growing old."

Guardian Unlimited's Diana Wynne Jones wrote that Funke's next English-language translation, Inkheart, "is a book about books, a celebration of and a warning about books.… I don't think I've ever read anything that conveys so well the joys, terrors, and pitfalls of reading." Jones felt that some of the characters are not as complete as they might be, but noted that each of the chapters begins with a quotation from a classic children's book, including Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan, and The Hobbit. She added that the quotes have little to do with the content of the chapters, but rather "work more as a rich sample of the books that lie behind Inkheart."

The girl of the story is Meg, who lives with her book-binder father, Mo, a man with a special gift, or curse. When he reads aloud, the characters from a book are drawn into the real world and replaced with real-world people. Nine years earlier, as Mo read Fenoglio's Inkheart, characters were released, including the evil Capricorn, and Meg's mother disappeared into the book. Meg begins to understand the complexity of the chain of events with the arrival of a stranger named Dustfingers, who refers to Mo as Silvertongue and who wants her father to read a monster out of the story to be used against Capricorn's enemies. School Library Journal reviewer Sharon Rawlins concluded, "This 'story within a story' will delight not just fantasy fans, but all readers who like an exciting plot with larger-than-life characters." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Inkheart "a true feast for anyone who has ever been lost in a book."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, October 15, 2002, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Thief Lord, p. 401; September 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Inkheart, p. 114.

Bookseller, June 20, 2003, review of Inkheart, p. 32.

Horn Book, November-December, 2002, Anita L. Burkam, review of The Thief Lord, pp. 754-755.

Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, September, 2003, Jean Boreen, review of The Thief Lord, pp. 91-93.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002, review of The Thief Lord, pp. 1128-1129; September 15, 2003, review of Inkheart, p. 1174.

Language Arts, January, 2003, Junko Yokota, review of The Thief Lord, p. 236.

New York Times Book Review, November 17, 2002, Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, review of The Thief Lord, p. 1.

Publishers Weekly, June 24, 2002, review of The Thief Lord, pp. 57-58; November 11, 2002, review of The Thief Lord (audio), p. 24; July 21, 2003, review of Inkheart, p. 196.

School Library Journal, October, 2002, John Peters, review of The Thief Lord, pp. 163-164; February, 2003, Diane Balodis, review of The Thief Lord (audio), p. 77; October, 2003, Sharon Rawlins, review of Inkheart, p. 164.


Guardian Unlimited, http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (June 22, 2002), Jan Mark, review of The Thief Lord; (November 22, 2003), Diana Wynne Jones, review of Inkheart.*

Additional topics

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