Students will explore and analyze several of the major themes in this story, including the setting of Venice, the magical element, and the orphans.
Standard: Makes inferences and draws conclusions about story elements (e.g., main and subordinate characters; events; setting; theme; missing details; relationships among story elements, such as the relevance of setting to mood and meaning in text)
Ask your students what they know about Venice, Italy. Explain that the story they are about to read takes place in Venice, and that the action takes place all over the city. Ask your students to write for five minutes about a place they know "like the back of their hand." (e.g.: their classroom, bedroom, or best friend's house or apartment) They should either write in a journal or their notebooks. Make sure they pay lots of attention to detail. What does this place look like? Smell like? Etc. What are the advantages of being so familiar with a certain place?
- Map of Venice
- Reference books
- In The Thief Lord, the setting of the story plays a key role. And the Venice the characters roam through is the Venice that exists today. Using the map at the very beginning of the book, ask students to point out the places that Prosper, Bo, and the others visit in the story. How are these places described? Which places play an important role in the plot?
- As a class, take a "virtual tour" of this fabulous city. Find or make a large version of the map of Venice, and assign students important places to research. Some of these places are: the square of San Marco, the Doge's Palace, the "Bridge of Sighs" and Rialto Bridge, the cemetery island of San Michele, and the Grand Canal. Using resources including the Internet, history books, photo collections, and guide books, students can take turns delivering information about their stop on the class tour of Venice as you "make your way" through the city.
- Continue learning about Venetian history and culture. Use the glossary at the end of the book to learn some basic words and phrases in Italian. Learn about traditional Venetian food. What do the characters in The Thief Lord eat? Bring in some samples for your students to sample. Read a brief history of Venice, from its pre-Roman origins to its Medieval- and Renaissance-era glory to the present.
- The merry-go-round in The Thief Lord turns out to have magical powers (it can make people older or younger). Ask your students if they felt that Scipio made the right decision. What about Renzo and Morosina? Do your students believe these characters found the happiness they were seeking after their ride on the merry-go-round? What about Barbarossa — how did he feel? Do they believe Prosper ever regretted not taking a ride? Encourage them to use evidence from the book to support their opinions.
- While there are no magic merry-go-rounds, many real people go to great lengths to appear either older or younger than they really are. Ask your students for examples of both younger people wishing to be older and older people who want to regain their youth. How do modern science and technology help fulfill either of these wishes? Why aren't these people content with their real ages? Can their wishes become dangerous? How?
- Ask students to write their own creative stories entitled "A Ride on the Magical Merry-Go-Round." Would they choose to be younger again, or to be older? Ask them to imagine what life would be like for them if they were suddenly younger or older. What would be the advantages and disadvantages of their new age? Would they become a different age if they knew there was no changing back?
- Prosper, Bo, and their friends are all orphans. But why do they all choose to live on their own? What are the advantages of their lifestyle? What are its potential dangers? What other options do they have? How was Ida raised when she was an orphan girl?
- By the end of The Thief Lord, the characters have chosen different paths. Why did Mosca and Riccio ultimately turn down Ida's hospitality? Why did Barbarossa yearn to be adopted by Esther Hartlieb when Prosper and Bo wanted nothing to do with her?
- Explore how Cornelia Funke integrates magic and fantasy into the real-world setting of Venice.
Other Stories About Children in Fantastical Circumstances
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
The darkly humorous adventures of the Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. Evil Count Olaf is after their family fortune and will stop at nothing to get it. Can the children continue to outwit him when they're faced with one unfortunate event after the next?
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
The Cinderella story retold with a twist. Strong-willed Ella was cursed by foolish fairy Lucinda at birth, and she must obey every order given to her. When her mother dies, Ella is left with a dreadful stepmother and stepsisters and a much-absent father. Ella sets off on a quest to gain her own freedom, and finds love and happiness along the way.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Young Artemis Fowl is the greatest criminal mastermind in the world. And he's come up with a plan to kidnap a fairy and hold her for ransom in exchange for fairy gold. But Artemis didn't plan on Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit and her mix of magic and technology — plus a team of magical friends.
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
In this classic fantasy and adventure story set in the 19th century, a young girl meets a family of humans who can live forever.
The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland
It is 1199 and young Arthur de Caldicot, aged 13, is waiting impatiently to grow up and become a knight. One day his father's friend Merlin gives him a shining piece of obsidian, and his life becomes entwined with that of his namesake, the Arthur whose story he sees unfold in the stone. A thoroughly contemporary novel about the past and a brilliant new take on the Arthurian legends.
Teaching plan written by Beth Doty.