Booklist: Pickpockets, Thieves and Scoundrels!

With the success of books like The Thief Lord and The Lightning Thief, books about thieves seem to have gained popularity. Just put it in as a key word in a Minuteman search and see how many books for middle grades and teens pop up!  Or check out the kids in these books; they are thieves, robbers or outlaws in their worlds, for a variety of reasons. From fantasy to historical fiction to adventure, these characters are determined to survive, whatever skills they might have to use.

The books on this list are pretty evenly split between the Juvenile (J) and Teen (YA) collections; their placement in our collection is listed at the end of the brief summary.

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Pickpockets, Thieves and Scoundrels!

Barratt, Mark. Joe Rat
In the dark, dank sewers of Victorian London, an abandoned boy known as Joe Rat scrounges for valuables, not for himself, to give to a woman known as “Mother,” a criminal mastermind who considers him a favorite among her “rats”.   But it’s a chance meeting with a runaway girl and a stranger called “the Madman” that transforms Joe’s life, as well as the lives of all who know him.  J

Bell, Hilaire. Shield of Stars
A former pickpocket, Weasel is the type of boy most people would avoid.  Justice Holis took Weasel off the streets, gave him a home, a job, and the key to his house. When Justice Holis finds himself in trouble, only Weasel can save him. But what can one boy do? Not much without help…so Weasel will find that help.  Try the other books in this trilogy!  J & YA

Blackwood, Gary.  The Shakespeare Stealer
Widge is an orphan with a rare talent for shorthand. His fearsome master has just one demand: steal Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”–or else. Widge has no choice but to follow orders, so he works his way into the heart of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare’s players perform.  J

Bradshaw, Gillian. The Dragon and the Thief
Prahotep has been plagued with bad luck his whole life. When he takes up tomb robbing, he stumbles across Hathor, the last dragon in Egypt. Hathor requests his assistance in her escape to Nubia in search of fellow dragons, and suddenly, although they’re pursued by evil magicians, the usually unlucky boy suddenly finds the gods and a little fortune on his side.  J

Brennan, Herbie. Shadow Project
A young English thief stumbles on, and subsequently is recruited for, a super-secret operation that trains teenagers in remote viewing and astral projection techniques in order to engage in spying. Danny Lipman is a young thief who stumbles into a clandestine operation that he does not immediately understand. The staff of the Shadow Project allows him to escape after deciding that he shows natural talent for their work but not before bugging his jacket.  J & YA

Bunce, Elizabeth. Starcrossed
In a kingdom dominated by religious intolerance, Digger, a teenage orphaned thief, is on the run after a botched job ends in a violent ambush. Desperate lies help her escape with some young aristocrats, who take her to their remote mountain estate. While posing as Celyn, a ladies’ maid, Digger meets a visiting lord who blackmails her into uncovering dangerous political plot. YA

Buckley-Archer. Gideon the Cutpurse
Peter and Kate have somehow stumbled from the 21st century back to 1763, and even though they are still in England, everything has changed. They believe their time travel must be connected to the antigravity machine Kate’s father has been working on, but it has been stolen by a criminal called The Tar Man. To survive, they really have no choice but to trust Gideon, a stranger whose offer of help seems genuine, even if he is known as a cutpurse and thief.  J

Carter, Ally. Heist Society
A group of teenagers uses their combined talents to re-steal several priceless paintings and save fifteen-year-old Kat Bishop’s father, himself an international art thief, from a vengeful collector. The daughter of notorious thieves, Kat Bishop has enrolled in the exclusive Colgan School to escape the family business and try to live a normal life. But when she is kicked out, Kat has to return to her roots. YA

 Catanese, P.W. The Thief and the Beanstalk
Orphaned and desperate, Nick joins a band of thieves; in exchange Nick must help them break into the lavish castle rumored to belong to an old man named Jack. When Nick’s dangerous mission leads him straight to Jack, he sees a chance to climb the famed beanstalk himself. But what Nick doesn’t know is that things are different from when Jack made his climb. There are new foes at the top now. Will Nick come down the beanstalk a hero? Will he come down at all?  J

Cole, Stephen. Thieves Like Us
Jonah, a brilliant computer hacker, is the newest addition to an elite group of teen outlaws all hired by the same mysterious benefactor. Each of them offers a unique talent: Patch is a locksmith; Motti can dismantle any electrical system; Con’s charm is mesmerizing; and Tye can detect a lie with more precision than a polygraph. Together, this motley crew races from a high-tech underground centre to exotic locations where they hunt for priceless ancient artifacts that may bring riches . . . or the secret to eternal life. YA

 Colfer, Eoin. Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius—and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit.  These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous. Artemis thinks he has them right where he wants them…but then they stop playing by the rules.  Read all the sequels too!  J & YA

Couloumbus, Audrey. The Misadventures of Maude March
When Sallie March and her sister Maude escape their self-serving guardians for the wilds of the frontier, they begin an adventure the likes of which Sallie has only read about. This time however, the “wanted woman” isn’t a dime-novel villain, it’s Sallie’s very own sister! What follows is not the lies the papers printed, but the honest-to-goodness truth of how two sisters went from being orphans to being outlaws—and lived to tell the tale!  J

Deary, Terry. The Fire Thief
Greek God Prometheus travels into the future, and falls in with a pair of itinerant thieves: Jim, a young orphan and his “Uncle” Edward. They gain admittance to wealthy homes, and while Uncle Edward stages a theatrical performance in the downstairs parlor, Jim steals valuables upstairs.   Is Jim really the person who can save the god of fire?   Read all three books!  J

Engh, M.J.  The House in the Snow
Runaway Benjamin meets another boy, newly escaped from the mysterious House in the Forest. He learns that it is inhabited by robbers who can make themselves invisible; they keep a group of stolen boys as servants. Faced with starvation, the two sneak boys make a desperate plan: they will sneak into the House and discover the robbers’ cloaks of invisibility. Will it work?   J

 Fagan, Deva. The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle
The personal quests of a young witch who aspires to be a villain and a young thief who is determined to become a hero intersect in a swampy bog. On their travels, it becomes clear that what little magic there is in the Uplands is draining away. As Prunella and Barnaby try to discover the cause, they realize that good and evil can come packaged in deceptive forms-nasty bog-witches, malevolent wizards, and beautiful queens aren’t always what they seem.  J

Funke, Cornelia. The Thief Lord
After escaping from their cruel aunt and uncle, orphans Prosper and Bo meet a mysterious boy who calls himself the “Thief Lord.” Clever and charming, the Thief Lord leads a band of street children who enjoy making mischief. But the Thief Lord also has a dark secret. And suddenly Prosper and Bo find themselves on a fantastical journey to a forgotten place. What they discover there will change the course of their destiny … forever.  J & YA

 Hahn, Mary.  The Gentleman Outlaw and Me—Eli
Eliza Yates reinvents herself as Elijah Bates when she runs away from her unloving relatives, is headed west in search of her absent father. She finds Calvin Featherstone, left for dead by his muggers, and so begins a funny, cliff-hanging melodrama that features a sparkling text containing rapid-fire dry humour and a fresh, determined heroine who manages everything to her satisfaction.  J

 Harlow, Joan.  Firestorm!
Poppy, a skilled pickpocket working the streets of 1870s Chicago, meets 13-year-old Justin Butterworth, a prominent jeweler’s son A twelve-year-old street urchin and the son of Chicago’s most important jeweler strike up an unlikely friendship in the days before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and both are nearly trapped when the city goes up in flames.  J

Haydon, Elizabeth. The Thief Queen’s Daughter
Young Ven Polypheme is sent on a secret mission within the walls of the Gated City, a former penal colony in the land of Serendair, where he and his friends face kidnapping and even worse dangers from the ruthless Thief Queen, who is trying to reclaim her runaway daughter. The first book in an exciting trilogy!  J & YA

Hughes, Carol. Jack Black and the Ship of Thieves
Captain Henry Hugo Black, of the world’s largest airship, has agreed to let his son, Jack, come along on her maiden voyage. But there is  treachery aboard! Jack finds himself a prisoner aboard a ship of thieves that hasn’t seen port for more than 25 years. From an erupting volcano to encounters with a sea monster…will Jack survive? J

Korman, Gordon.  Swindle
After a mean collector cons him out of his most valuable baseball card, Griffin Bing must put together a band of misfits to break into the man’s compound and recapture the card. There are many things standing in their way — a menacing guard dog, a high-tech security system, a very secret hiding place, and their inability to drive — but Griffin and his team are determined to get back what’s rightfully his.  J

 Lawrence, Carol.  The Thieves of Ostia
Flavia lives in the Roman Empire, in the port city of Ostia. When the dogs on Flavia’s street start dying, she is determined to find out who is killing them–and why. Her investigation leads her to three extraordinary people: Jonathan, her new neighbor; Nubia, an African slave girl; and Lupus, a mute beggar boy. They become firm friends as they search for the killer, narrowly escape being kidnapped by a slave dealer, and uncover a run  of burglaries.  A great series!  J

 McKinley, Robin.  The Outlaws of Sherwood
In the days of King Richard the Lionheart, a young forester named Robin set out one morning for the Nottingham Fair. But he never arrived. By the end of the day a man lay dead in the King’s Forest, and Robin was an outlaw with a price on his head.  This retelling of the outlaws hiding in Sherwood Forest, robbing from the rich to feed the poor is sure to be popular with readers.  J & YA

 Michaelis, Antonia. Tiger Moon
Sold to be the eighth wife of a rich and cruel merchant, Safia, also called Raka, tries to escape her fate by telling stories of Farhad the thief, his companion Nitish the white tiger, and their travels across India to retrieve a famous jewel that will save a kidnapped princess from becoming the bride of a demon king. J & YA

Mikelson, Ben.  Sparrow Hawk Red
Ricky Diaz, the son of an ex-DEA pilot, vows to avenge the death of his mother by a Mexican drug cartel. When he overhears his father refuse a secret mission to confiscate their plane, Ricky decides to do it himself. Spanish-speaking and able to fly small aircraft, he heads for the border. Once across, he lives among the rateros (homeless children) and meets Soledad, a streetwise waif who shares not only survival tips, but also strategies for penetrating the high-security cartel compound.  J

Prineas, Sarah. The Magic Thief
Conn picks the pocket of a wizard, who is startled that the stolen magical stone didn’t kill the boy. Nevery takes on Conn as a servant, but the boy’s inquisitiveness and talents move him to apprentice status. As Conn becomes more enmeshed in his new life, he navigates through the intricate dealings of both the wizarding world and the political machinations in a plot to overtake the wizard council and king.  Read all three books in this trilogy!  J

 Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief
Percy Jackson learns he is a demigod, the son of a mortal woman and Poseidon, god of the sea. His mother sends him to a summer camp for demigods where he and his new friends set out on a quest to prevent a war between the gods.  His first mission? To steal the lightning bolts of Zeus!  The first book in an excellent series!  J & YA

Schwabach, Karen. A Pickpocket’s Tale
Molly Abraham is a kinchin mort: a ten-year-old thief trying not to starve on the London streets. But everything changes for Molly when she is sentenced to be transported to the American colonies. She becomes an indentured servant to a kind Jewish family in New York City, and Molly has it good. So why is it that all she wants to do is go back to London?  J

 Tanner, Lian. Museum of Thieves
In the city of Jewel, children are chained to their Blessed Guardians from birth until Separation Day. When a bomb interrupts Separation Day, Goldie runs away and ends up at the mysterious Museum, where she discovers terrible secrets. Only the cunning mind of a thief can understand the museum’s strange, shifting rooms. Fortunately, Goldie has a talent for thieving.   Look for the new sequel: City of Lies.  J

Thompson, Kate. Highway Robbery
A stranger leaves his magnificent horse in the care of a boy he’s never met. As dusk falls, soldiers arrive, demanding to know where the horse’s owner has gone. Could the stranger be the notorious Dick Turpin, known for his daring holdups and amazing exploits? Is the horse the legendary Black Bess? And will the boy ever see the reward he’s been promised?  Or is his story just a story?  J

Turner, Megan Whelan.  The Thief
Because of his great skill at thievery, Gen lands in the King’s prison. After months of isolation, kept sane only by his sharp intelligence, Gen is released by the King’s Scholar, the Magus, who believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. The Magus needs the best thief in the land to help him steal it, and that thief is Gen. But Gen is also a survivor and a trickster–and he has ideas of his own.  The first book in a truly wonderful series.  J & YA

Updale, Elizabeth. Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman
When a petty thief falls though a glass roof in his attempt to escape from the police, what should have been the death of him marks the beginning of a whole new life. He adopts a dual existence as a respectable, wealthy gentleman named Montmorency, and his degenerate servant Scarper. But Montmorency must always be on guard. The smallest mistake could reveal his secret and ruin both his lives. YA

Walden, Mark. H.I.V.E.; Higher-Institute-of-Villainous-Education
H.I.V.E. is operated on a volcanic island in a distant ocean by G.L.O.V.E., a shadowy organization of worldwide wickedness. And, as Otto Malpense soon discovers, here the slickest of young tricksters, thieves, and hackers have been brought against their will to be trained as the next generation of supervillains. Otto and his friends refuse to be held and develop a scheme to escape from the island, but they must face many perils to succeed.  J & YA

Williams, Alex. The Talent Thief
Orphaned Cressida, a magnificent singer, and her brother Adam attend the by-invitation-only Festival of Youthful Genius, where they join forces with a former race car driver to try to stop a bizarre creature from stealing the talents of the young prodigies.  J

Wooding, Chris. Storm Thief
Orokos is a city of chaos, surrounded by an endless ocean, lashed by probability storms that re-order the world wherever they strike. When teen thieves Moa and Rail stumble upon a valuable artifact, they must flee pursuers who covet their find. Their journey brings them into contact with a half-mechanical homunculus and a group of rebels preparing to escape the city permanently. YA

Wrede, Patricia. Mairelon the Magician
Kim, a young street waif disguised as a boy, takes up with traveling magician Mairelon and his coachman after she is paid to search Mairelon’s wagon and is caught in the act. She agrees to travel with Mairelon, but is this part of her plan?  As she helps with the show, she learns some real magic, and eventually her plans fall apart. Can she find a new life as something better than a thief?   J & YA

 Zahn, Timothy.  Dragon and Thief
Assistant con-man Jack Morgan is on the run after being framed for a crime he didn’t commit.  Jack pilots his uncle’s spaceship to a remote and uninhabited planet hoping to escape capture. When another ship crashes after a fierce battle, Jack rescues the sole survivor– a K’da warrior names Draycos. It turns out Draycos can help Jack clear his name. All they have to do is team up. Not a problem, until learns that Draycos is not your average alien.  YA

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For some other titles, try:

Bell, Hilari.  Player’s Ruse J & YA

Cadnum, Michael.  Flash  YA

Fleischman, Sid.  Bandit’s Moon  J

Lindgren, Astrid. Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter  J

Rees, Celia.  Sovay  YA

Roberts, Willo.  Jo and the Bandit  J

These titles all sort of fit our list, but not quite.

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If you have any other titles to add, let us know!  And if you’re looking for these books or any others, please ask any of our librarians for assistance!



2 thoughts on “Booklist: Pickpockets, Thieves and Scoundrels!

    • I had The Book Thief on my first draft of the list, but took it off because I thought it might be too old. I may have to add it back in!

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