Funke, Cornelia 1958–

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FUNKE, Cornelia 1958–

(Cornelia Caroline Funke)


Born December 10, 1958, in Dorsten, Westphalia, Germany; married, 1980; husband's name Rolfe (died, 2006); children: Anna, Ben. Education: University of Hamburg, degree (education theory); Hamburg State College of Design (book illustration) Politics: German Green Party.


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


Children's book author and illustrator. Social worker for three years; freelance illustrator and board game designer; writer, beginning 1994. Has worked for German state television channel ZDF.


Amnesty International.


Kalbacher Klapperschlange, 2000, for Drachenreiter ; Wildweibchenpreis, 2000, for collected works; Vache qui Lit (Venice), and Kalbacher Klapperschlange, both 2001, Preis der Jury der Jungen Leser, 2002, and Corine award, and Evangelischer Buchpreis, both 2003, all for Herr der Diebe; Mildred L. Batchelder Award for best translated children's book, and Torchlight prize, Askews Library Services, both 2003, both for The Thief Lord; Nordstemmer Zuckerrübe, 2004, for Kleiner Werwolf; Preis der Jury der Jungen Leser, Phantastik-Preis der Stadt Wetzlar, and Kalbacher Klapperschlange, all 2004, all for Tintenherz ; Booksense Award, and Children's Literature Book of the Year award, American Booksellers Association, 2004, for Inkheart; Booksense Award, 2006, for Inkspell.


children's fiction

(Self-illustrated) Monstergeschichten, Loewe Verlag, 1993.

(Self-illustrated) Rittergeschichten, Loewe Verlag, 1994.

(Self-illustrated) Zwei wilde kleine Hexen, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 1994.

(Self-illustrated) Kein Keks für Kobolde, Fischer Verlag (Frankfurt, Germany), 1994.

(Self-illustrated) Hinter verzauberten Fenstern: eine geheimnisvolle Adventsgeschichte, Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 1995.

(Self-illustrated) Greta und Eule, Hundesitter, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 1995.

(Self-illustrated) Der Mondscheindrache, Loewe Verlag, 1996.

(Self-illustrated) Hände weg von Mississippi, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 1997.

Prinzessin Isabella, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer, Friedrich Oetinger, 1997.

(Self-illustrated) Das verzauberte Klassenzimmer, Loewe Verlag, 1997.

(Self-illustrated) Tiergeschichten, Loewe Verlag, 1997.

(Self-illustrated) Drachenreiter, Cecelie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 1997, translated by Anthea Bell as Dragon Rider, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

Dachbodengeschichten, illustrated by Wilfried Gebhard, Loewe Verlag, 1998.

(Self-illustrated) Igraine Ohnefurcht, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 1998.

Dicke Freundinnen, illustrated by Daniela Kulot, Friedrich Oetinger, 1998, translated by Oliver G. Latsch as Best Girl Friends, 2003.

Kleiner Werwolf, Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 1999.

Das Piratenschwein, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer, Cecelie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 1999.

Strandgeschichten, illustrated by Karin Schliehe and Bernhard Mark, Loewe Verlag 1999.

(Self-illustrated) Herr der Diebe, Cecelie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 2000, translated by Oliver G. Latsch as The Thief Lord, Chicken House/Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.

Der verlorene Wackelzahn, illustrated by Julia Kaergel, Friedrich Oetinger, 2000.

(Self-illustrated) Mick und Mo im Wilden Westen, Friedrich Oetinger, 2000, translated by Oliver G. Lasche as Mick and Mo in the Wild West, 2002.

Dicke Freundinnen und der Pferdedieb, illustrated by Daniela Kulot, Friedrich Oetinger, 2001, translated by Oliver G. Latsch as Best Girl Friends and the Horse Thief, 2005.

Der geheimnisvolle Ritter Namenlos, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer, Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 2001, translated as Princess Knight, Chicken House/Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

Als der Weihnachtsmann vom Himmel fiel, illustrated by Regina Kehn, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 2001, translated by Oliver G. Latsch as When Santa Fell to Earth, illustrated by Paul Howard, Chicken House (New York, NY), 2006.

Emma und der Blaue Dschinn, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer, Cecilie Dressler (Hamburg, Germany), 2002.

(Self-illustrated) Die schönsten Erstlesegeschichten, Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 2002.

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

Die Glücksfee, illustrated by Sybille Hein, Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 2003.

Kápten Knitterbart und seine Bande, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer, Friedrich Oetinger, 2003.

(Self-illustrated) Kribbel Krabbel Käferwetter, Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 2003.

(Self-illustrated) Vorlesegeschichten von Anna, Heinrich Ellermann, 2003.

(Self-illustrated) Lilli und Flosse, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 2004.

(Self-illustrated) Potilla, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 2004.

Mick und Mo im Weltraum, illustrated by Tina Schulte, Friedrich Oetinger, 2004.

Der wildeste Bruder der Welt, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer, Friedrich Oetinger, 2004, translated by Chantal Wright as The Wildest Brother, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.

Pirate Girl, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.

Rosannas großer Bruder, illustrated by Jacky Gleich, Friedrich Oetinger, 2005.

(Self-illustrated) Zottelkralle, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 2005.

(And illustrator) Tintenblut, Cecelie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 2005, translated by Anthea Bell as Inkspell, Chicken House/Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.

Kápten Knitterbart auf der Schatzinsel, Friedrich Oetinger, 2006.

Princess Pigsty, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer, translated as Chantal Wright, Chicken House (New York, NY), 2007.

"ghosthunters" series; self-illustrated fiction

Gespernsterjäger auf eisiger spur, Loewe Verlag, 2001, translated by Helena Ragg as Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.

Gespernsterjäger im Feuerspuk, Loewe Verlag, 2001, translated by Helena Ragg as Ghosthunters and the Gruesome, Invincible Lightning Ghost, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.

Gespernsterjäger in der Gruselburg, Loewe Verlag, 2001, translated by Helena Ragg as Ghosthunters and the Totally Mouldy Baroness, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2007.

Gespernsterjäger in großer Gefahr, Loewe Verlag, 2001, translated by Helena Ragg as Ghosthunters and the Muddy Monster of Doom, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2007.

"wilden hühner" series; self-illustrated fiction

Die wilden Hühner, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 1993.

Die wilden Hühner auf Klassenfahrt, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 1996.

Die wilden Hühner: Fuchsalarm, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 1998.

Die wilden Hühner un das Glück der Erde, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 2000.

Die wilden Hühner: das Bandenbuch zum Mitmachen, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 2001.

Die wilden Hühner und die Liebe, Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 2003.


The Thief Lord was adapted for audio (five cassettes), read by Simon Jones, Listening Library, 2002, and was adapted and directed by Richard Claus as a feature film, Warner Bros., 2006. Tintenherz was adapted as a musical play produced in Bonn, Germany, 2006; Tintenblut was adapted as a play produced in Hannover, Germany, 2006. The "Wilden Hüner in Liebe" series (translation means "Wild Chicks in Love") was adapted as a German-language film, directed by Vivian Naefe, 2006, and as audio books. Inkheart was adapted for a film starring Brendan Fraser, Helen Mirren, and Jim Broadbent, and produced by New Line Cinema, forthcoming, 2008. Inkheart and Inkspell were adapted as audio books read by Fraser, Listening Library, 2005. Dragon Rider was adapted as an audiobook, read by Fraser, and has been optioned for film.


English-speaking readers would never have discovered the fantasy fiction of Cornelia Funke if it had not been for one particularly devoted reader. A young fan in Funke's native Germany was prompted to write to English-based publisher Chicken House when she discovered that she could not read her favorite books in English as well as German. This letter inspired curiosity in the publisher, and a little research revealed Funke to be one of the most popular children's book writers in all of Germany. Orchestrating the translation of Funke's then-current children's book, Herr der Diebe, into English (by the author's cousin, because no one else would undertake it), Chicken House had a bestseller on its hands with 2002's The Thief Lord. The book won Funke even more English-language fans when it was released in the United States by Scholastic. In the years since, the author's popularity among English-language readers has been further enhanced by the films that have been made from her books The Thief Lord and Inkheart, and in 2005 she and her family left her native Hamburg, Germany, to make the United States her new home.

When The Thief Lord was first published in England, it sold out in ten days, and 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 British author J.K. Rowling's talent and published Rowling's "Harry Potter" series in England. Inkheart, Funke's 2002 novel, was also successful in translation, and other books that have made the move into English include Inkheart 's sequel, Inkspell, and several of Funke's books for younger readers: Dragon Rider, The Wildest Brother, and The Princess Knight. By 2005 Funke had published over three dozen books, which were published in twenty-eight countries. Appraising Funke's works in Time, Clive Barker wrote that, refreshingly free of "mawkishness or attendant melodrama," the author's books gain added depth due to "her moody, unpredictable characters and the distinctive feel of her plots."

Although Funke originally was educated as a social worker, after graduating from the University of Hamburg she put herself through a program in book illustration while working with underprivileged children during the day. She began an illustration career designing board games and book art, but at first had no plans to become a children's author. However, as she was exposed to the books being written for children while working as an illustrator, Funke grew frustrated with the lack of imaginative storytelling. In the mid-1990s she saw her first book published in her native Germany, and her books—which are based on meticulous research and feature children stepping into magical worlds, paired with her engaging illustrations—quickly became popular.

The Thief Lord is about orphan brothers Prosper, aged twelve, and five-year-old Boniface (Bo), who run away when their childless aunt and uncle decide that they only want Bo to live with them in their house in Hamburg. Before she died, the boys' mother had told the siblings about the wonders of Venice, Italy, and that is where the fugitives now flee. Unfortunately, the boys' relatives are angered at Bo's departure and hire relentless private detective Victor Getz to follow the children's trail. Hiding in an abandoned movie theater, they live among other street children, their hideout fitted with blankets and mattresses, and full of kittens to be petted and comic books and paperbacks to be read. Among their urchin comrades is twelve-year-old Scipio—the Thief Lord of the title—who steals from the rich to support this band of pickpockets and petty thieves. Other friends include a girl named Hornet, who New York Times Book Review contributor Rebecca Pepper Sinkler described as "a Wendy for the twenty-first century" because "she rides herd on the lost boys but doesn't do their laundry." While Scipio usually deals in jewels, when he accepts a job to steal a broken wooden wing from a carved lion, the children realize that the heist involves more than it at first appears. In fact, 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 Scipio and his band keep her posted as they search for the merry-go-round. Meanwhile, P.I. Getz finds himself drawn to the plight of Prosper and Bo and their new friends.

Praising The Thief Lord as a "spellbinding story," a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that "the magical city of Venice, with its moonlit waters, maze of canals, and magnificent palaces, is an excellent setting." 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."

In London's Guardian Unlimited, online contributor Diana Wynne Jones called Funke's next English-language translation, Inkheart, "a book about books, a celebration of and a warning about books" that "conveys so well the joys, terrors, and pitfalls of reading." The first part of a trilogy, Inkheart revolves around twelve-year-old Meggie, whose bookbinder father, Mo, has a special gift that has almost become a curse. Whenever Mo reads aloud, the characters from the book he is reading are pulled into the real world, while real-world people are pulled into the characters' fictional world. Almost a decade earlier problems arose when Mo read Fenoglio's Inkheart; the characters that were released included the evil Capricorn, while Meg's mother disappeared into the book. Now, nine years have past and a much older Meg learns Mo's secret, which explains why her father never read to her while she was growing up. Mo's secret also explains the complexity of the chain of events that begin to unwind after she meets a scarred stranger named Dustfinger. Calling Mo Silver-tongue, Dustfinger warns the bookseller that Capricorn's evil henchmen are on his trail. They hope to force Mo to read a monster out of the troublemaking book, then direct the creature to kill Capricorn's enemies. Together with Dustfinger, Meggie, Mo, and Meggie's great-aunt Elinor set off to find Fenoglio, hoping that he can write a new ending to the story that now threatens their lives.

Each chapter of Inkheart begins with a quotation from a classic children's book, such as Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. and as Jones noted, these quotes suggest the "rich sample of the books that lie behind" the novel. School Library Journal reviewer Sharon Rawlins wrote that Funke's "'story within a story' will delight not just fantasy fans, but all readers who like an exciting plot with larger-than-life characters," while in Kirkus Reviews, a contributor praised Inkheart as "a true feast for anyone who has ever been lost in a book."

As Inkspell, the sequel to Inkheart, opens, Meggie is serving as Dustfinger's apprentice, joined in that capacity by a boy named Farid. With the aid of a stranger named Orpheus, the three are allowed to travel into the Inkworld, home of Fenoglio and the only place where the evil caused by Capricorn can be written out of Inkheart. Orpheus, with the same talent as Meggie's father, also reads several other characters back into the book, allowing Meggie and Mo to rejoin Meggie's mother. As events unfold, wars, intrigues, and other threats mask Funke's underlying question: "what might happen if authors try to change the world they have created," as Beth L. Meister phrased it in a School Library Journal review. In further explanation of Funke's complex premise, Horn Book Claire E. Gross dubbed the book a "bibliophilic fantasy" that "pits the power of words against the power of death." Noting the long list of "clearly drawn" characters that people the epic fantasy, Meister praised Inkspell as an "involving" novel that will leave fans eager for the sequel, Inkdawn, while in Booklist Carolyn Phelan called Inkspell "a stronger book than its predecessor.

In Dragon Rider, which Funke published in the original German in 1997, she transports readers to the wilds of Scotland, where the earth's last silver dragons live. When their secluded home is finally threatened by humans, a young dragon named Firedrake and a taciturn brownie named Sorrel set out to locate the ancient home of the silver dragons, a place located in the Himalayan mountains. On their journey to the Rim of Heaven, Fire-drake and Sorrel are joined by an orphaned boy named Ben and Twigleg, a golem-like creature who is under the sway of the silver dragon's arch enemy, Nettlebrand. The journey, overshadowed by Nettelbrand's sinister machinations, involves encounters with a host of mythic creatures, including djinni, elves, basilisks, roc, sea serpents, and dwarves, and reveals the laws that underlie dragon magic. "Readers will delight in the creatures that turn up in this extended quest," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor in a review of Dragon Rider, going on to praise Funke's "lively" protagonists "and their often hilarious banter." Noting that the novel is extremely popular among the author's German fans, Booklist writer Jennifer Mattson compared the book to the novels of Lloyd Alexander and praised its "good, old-fashioned ensemble-cast quest." While a Kirkus Reviews writer praised the novel's "breakneck pace," Mattson maintained that, in relation to The Thief Lord, the book's "gentler, lighter, and more straightforward" plot will make Dragon Rider a "winner" among middle-grade readers.

In addition to epic fantasies, Funke has authored a number of illustrated books for younger readers, many featuring Funke's own artwork and several a collaboration between the writer and illustrator Kerstin Meyer. In Pirate Girl Funke and Meyer pair up to tell the story of an imaginative little girl named Molly, who is sailing to the home of her grandmother. Forced to engage in such horrid activities as peeling potatoes and swabbing decks after being abducted by Captain Firebeard and his band of bloodthirsty pirates, Molly attempts to escape but gets caught, and a walk on the plank is only avoided by one of the most feared pirates of all—who coincidently looks a great deal like Molly's mother! Another collaboration, The Wildest Brother, introduces Ben, a loving younger brother whose vivid imagination transforms the playful torments he visits on annoyed older sister Anna into battles against a terrible monster. Meyer's "bright, droll mixed-media pen-and-ink" illustrations add to the humor of Pirate Girl, according to a Kirkus Reviews writer, while her "color-soaked cartoons" in The Wildest Brother "are bursting with a zany energy," according to School Library Journal contributor Susan Weitz. The story of "personal cleverness and parental heroism" Funke tells in Pirate Girl is one with "universal appeal," in the opinion of Booklist contributor Mattson, and a Publishers Weekly critic wrote that the "exploration of the relationship between a real-world sister and brother" in The Wildest Brother yields "riproaring results."



Booklist, October 15, 2002, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Thief Lord, p. 401; September 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Inkheart, p. 114; August, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Dragon Rider, p. 1924; June 1, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Pirate Girl, p. 1821; October 1, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of Inkspell, p. 52.

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; September-October, 2004, Anita L. Burkam, review of Dragon Rider, p. 583; July-August, 2005, Kitty Flynn, review of Pirate Girl, p. 449; January-February, 2006, Claire E. Gross, review of Inkspell, p. 78.

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; July 15, 2004, review ofDragon Rider, p. 685; June 1, 2005, review of Pirate Girl, p. 636; September 1, 2005, review of Inkspell, p. 973; April 15, 2006, review of The Wildest Brother, p. 406.

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; July 21, 2003, review of Inkheart, p. 196; July 19, 2004, review of Dragon Rider, p. 162; May 1, 2006, review of The Wildest Brother, p. 63.

School Library Journal, October, 2002, John Peters, review of The Thief Lord, pp. 163-164; October, 2003, Sharon Rawlins, review of Inkheart, p. 164; October, 2004, Beth Wright, review of Dragon Rider, p. 164; August, 2005, Grace Oliff, review of Pirate Girl, p. 94; October, 2005, Beth L. Meister, review of Inkspell, p. 161; June, 2006, Susan Weitz, review of The Wildest Brother, p. 112.

Time, April 18, 2005, Clive Barker, "The Next J.K. Rowling?," p. 120.


Cornelia Funke Official Web site, (October 10, 2006).

Guardian Unlimited, (June 22, 2002), Jan Mark, review of The Thief Lord; (November 22, 2003) Diana Wynne Jones, review of Inkheart.

Scholastic Web site, (November 4, 2006), "Cornelia Funke."*