Monday, Apr. 18, 2005

Cornelia Funke

She is often called the German J.K. Rowling, but Cornelia Funke is a unique talent. In a short period, she has written her way into the hearts and imaginations of audiences worldwide.

Although her novels — which include The Thief Lord, Inkheart and Dragon Rider — are usually found in the children's section, she reaches adult readers too, drawing characters of every age and every shade of morality with equal care and empathy.

Funke, 46, is no sentimentalist. There's none of the mawkishness or attendant melodrama that so often mars Hollywood entertainment for children. She trusts her (underrated) prose, her moody, unpredictable characters and the instinctive feel of her plots, which are happily devoid of emotional manipulation. By the end of Inkheart, her most elegant and accomplished work to date, we have experienced wonderments — but grief too. In that book, the first of a trilogy, Funke presents us with a simple but irresistible idea. She creates someone who can read characters off the page and into life. Think of it: you have all of literature in front of you and a tongue that can animate written souls. Who would you choose?

Miraculous events don't happen without consequences in Funke's world. Magic has too much weight to be freely given. But adult readers will leave the book with the happy certainty that imagination outweighs the contempt for the fantastic that we are taught credible adulthood demands — and is there, ready to heal and redeem, when we come back to find it again.

Barker is the author, most recently, of the novel Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War

From the Archive
Give Them A Good Story: Christmas is high season for kids' books, and they're a lot easier to wrap than a new bike