Double Review of books set in Venice: The Silent Gondoliers and The Thief Lord

by S. Morgenstern
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

The astute among you will recognize the author as the same one who wrote The Princess Bride. (Incidentally, if you loved the movie and have never read the book, please do. You will not be disappointed!) A library patron raved about this book as one of her absolute favorites and informed me that if I liked The Princess Bride, I had to read this. So, I gave it a go. The story is solid enough but I felt too short for the intended age (my library keeps it in our adult fiction section; I’d give it to a middle schooler), weighing in at a mere 110 pages, and the premise didn’t really interest me that much – the famous singing gondoliers of Venice suddenly fall silent and the big mystery of why is unraveled by the incomparable S. Morganstern! …Eh, I’ll pass. I do now really want to visit Venice, though. But this is a far cry from the masterpiece of The Princess Bride. Comparing them is useless – even, dare I say… inconceivable!

 

by Cornelia Funke
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

My library’s book club for 4th and 5th graders read this regularly, so it was a pleasure to talk with a colleague about it who knows it intimately. She said it felt like two stories, one which was the set-up, the story of how these 6 kids came together and live on the “streets” of Venice and how they support themselves. The second story is the story of the merry-go-round and the Conte’s quest to have it restored with all its magical powers. I don’t want to give too much away, but they are both delightful stories and have a great resolution. However, I will say that there are two adults in the story, and it seemed for a while as though the author were going to make them fall in love and get married. This didn’t happen, which was strangely satisfying to me. This would make a good book club read as there are layers to the story and the characters are quite complex. The overall theme is of the impatience of wanting to grow up and be on one’s own, versus missing out on having a proper childhood.

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