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The Talent Thief

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

In Brief: A parable of putting the needs of others ahead of ones own talents, however great. Adam's persevering affection for his sister despite her attitude, and her later realisation of this fact. The idea that talents can be extracted, stored and passed on.

Cover of The Talent Thief

Author: Alex Williams

Publisher: Macmillan

Published in: 2006

Age Range: Pre Teens+

Period: Early 20th C

Setting: America

Genres:  Adventure


Characters:

  • Adam Bloom is kind but untalented, overshadowed by his highly talented parents and sister.
  • Cressida Bloom is Adam's 16-year-old sister a genius for singing.
  • Fortescue is a rich but crazed and bitter collector of other people's talents.
  • Amy Swift & Saul Shafer are an expert racing driver and tracker respectively who help the youngsters chase after Fortescue.

Synopsis:

Cressida Bloom's talent for singing is stolen along with those of many other youngsters at a Convention for Young Genius, and she and Adam must chase the thieves. On the way, it becomes clear that while others have the more obvious talents, Adam's own gift is in its way even more important.

Notes:

Although I've described the setting of this story as early 20th-century America, that's not really specified in the text; it's just given that sort of feel. This story is by way of being a moral tale on the lines of Roald Dahl's Charlie... a story for Everytime. While in Dahl's world, the children were obnoxious and the competition organiser was childlike and benign, here the children are innocent victims, united only by their genius in many areas. The organiser is the evil-minded Fortescue who has used his family's Turnip Soup fortune to find a remarkable creature — the eponymous Talent Thief — whose own skill is in extracting the talents of others, stored as Talent Spheres.

Fortunately, the hero of the story is as ordinary as Charlie Bucket. And this ordinariness leaves him unaltered when the other youngsters lose their talents. In spite of being shunned by Convention organisers and Genius children alike — his bedroom is a shack on the hotel roof — his good nature keeps him going and helps other people realise theirs.

The idea that talents are somehow things which can be extracted and stored is merely a plot device, in keeping with the book's fantasy milieu. Likewise, the poor treatment handed out to Adam by everyone including his sister, is in the Cinderella tradition, and you know who's going to come good. The Talent Thief is an odd amalgam of beast and intelligence, able to extract and later absorb the talents of other creatures. It seems to understand human language but is very simple other than that.

There will be no surprises here: Do the youngsters get their talents back? Do Amy & Saul find each other attractive? Will Cressida learn that her brother's kindness is more important than her genius? Will Fortescue's Talent Thief see through its master's apparent friendship? Will there be a daring woman aviator among the characters? You don't need me to tell you the answers.

Themes:

  • Talents and their use

Adam nodded with satisfaction. “See?” he said, looking at Hans. “We will catch up with it and we will get the talents back and Cress will sing again and you will play the piano again and Grace will take her plane up again without flying into something and Saul will find his sheep again and Amy will race and win.” Adam took a deep breath.

Hans applauded slowly.

“Hooray for positive thinking,” he said with a sneer. “The good guys will win.” He bit down on an asparagus tip. “If there were a creature and it really had the power to take the talents from people, I wouldn't be chasing it, I'd be joining it. Maybe Fortescue is the one with the right idea.”

Wednesday 25th October 2006