Skip to Main Content

The Shadow Thieves

Illustrated by Eric Fortune


Buy from Other Retailers

About The Book

Something extraordinary is about to happen to Charlotte Mielswetzski.

It's not the very cute kitten that appears out of nowhere. It's not the arrival of her cousin Zee, who believes he's the cause of a mysterious sickness that has struck his friends back in England. And it's not the white-faced, yellow-eyed men in tuxedos who follow Charlotte everywhere. What's so extraordinary is not any one of these things. It's all of them.

When Charlotte's friends start to get sick, Charlotte and Zee set out to find a cure. Their quest leads them to a not-so-mythical Underworld, where they face Harpies that love to rhyme, gods with personnel problems, and ghosts with a thirst for blood.

Charlotte and Zee learn that in a world overrun by Nightmares, Pain, and Death, the really dangerous character is a guy named Phil. And then they discover that the fate of every person -- living and dead -- is in their hands.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Guide to THE SHADOW THIEVES By Anne Ursu
Charlotte and Zee uncover a mystery that is causing all of their friends to become seriously ill. Their quest for the cure leads them to a not-so-mythical Underworld, where they face rhyme-loving Harpies, gods having problems with their personnel, and ghosts with a thirst for blood. They discover on their journey that the fate of every person -- living and dead -- is in their young hands. In her dazzling debut for young readers Anne Ursu weaves a tale of myth and adventure, danger, and magic that will keep readers engrossed until the very last secret is revealed.
Anne Ursu was raised in Minnesota and currently lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband, son and cats. The Shadow Thieves is the first in a trilogy. For more information, visit
What do you know about the Greek myths? Why do you think these stories have been passed down for thousands of years? What is the underworld in mythology? Who presides over it?
1. Describe Charlotte, both her physical appearance and her personality. How does she get along with her parents? Her peers? Would you be her friend? How would she fit in at your school? What are her strengths and weaknesses?
2. Why is Zee sent to his cousin's house? How do kids from Charlotte's school treat him? Why? Is his presence good for Charlotte? Why? How does their friendship develop over the course of the novel?
3. Where is the door to the Underworld? Why do you think the author picked this location? Who is the Messenger? Who are the men in the tuxedos?
4. How is Hades portrayed in this modern story? How have things changed in the Underworld since its beginning? What does this inspire Philonecron to attempt?
5. What is Zee's relationship with his grandmother? What do grandparents offer that parents can't? What is your own best memory with a grandparent? How does Zachary seem to expand and open up only when he's with his grandmother?
6. Why don't Zee's parents believe he has anything to do with the sudden illness? Would your parents believe you? What would you do?
7. What is the Piper Flu? Who is getting it? What is really happening? Why are they attacking children only?
8. How does Charlotte describe Mr. Metos? How is he involved in the story? What happens to him? Why is he destined to be a part of the story?
9. Are you familiar with the original Greek myths? How does this affect your reading of the text? How does Ursu play with the original characters and settings of the myths? Which original myth is your favorite? Why?
10. Reread page 311, which describes Zee bringing the army to life. What does Zee feel for the first time in his life? How can power corrupt and control people? Do you think power is more important or more intoxicating than fame? How are fame and power connected? Why do people become obsessed with these things?
11. Explain the major events in the Underworld. What happens to Philonecron and his army? Which scene is your favorite? Why? In the end, how do some things remain the same there?
12. The novel is peppered with a wide cast of mythological beasts. Which one is your favorite? Why? Does this novel inspire you to read the original myths as well?
Create a map of the Underworld. Use as many details from the book as you can, and don't forget to add in the beasts.
Fill out the following character charts as you read.
The Mortals: Description: Conflict: In the end: Charlotte
Grandmother Winter
Mr. Metos
The Immortals: Description/Powers Important because.. In the endÉ Philonecron
The Harpies like to rewrite nursery rhymes to reflect their more modern tastes. Rewrite a nursery rhyme or tune for another of the Underworld's beasts. Common tunes include "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Frére Jacques," or "London Bridge."
Art: Design the costumes for a movie adaptation of the novel. Sketch garments and choose colors and fabrics.
Or choose a scene to design instead. You can sketch, paint, or use the computer to create your setting. Language:
Rewrite one of the ancient Greek myths into a modern story.
The Shadow Thieves By Anne Ursu Cover by Eric Fortune Illustrated by Eric Fortune
ISBN-13: 978-1-4169-0587-5 ISBN-10: 1-4169-0587-1 Atheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13: 978-1-4169-0588-2 ISBN-10: 1-4169-0588-X Aladdin Books for Young Readers
AVAILABLE WHEREVER BOOKS ARE SOLD Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020 This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
This guide was created by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, a reading specialist and author of Reaching for Sun. Visit her website to find hundreds of guides to children's literature.

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Anne Ursu is the author of The Shadow ThievesThe Siren Song, and The Immortal Fire, all books in the Cronus Chronicles series. She’s also the author of the acclaimed novels Not Quite a Ghost, The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy, and The Real Boy, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. The recipient of a McKnight Fellowship Award in Children’s Literature, Anne lives in Minneapolis with her family and an ever-growing number of cats. Visit her at

About The Illustrator

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (April 24, 2007)
  • Length: 432 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416905882
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Fountas & Pinnell™ X These books have been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System

Browse Related Books

Awards and Honors

  • Great Stone Face Book Award Nominee (NH)
  • Golden Sower Award Nominee (NE)
  • Minnesota Book Awards Finalist

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Anne Ursu

More books from this illustrator: Eric Fortune

More books in this series: The Cronus Chronicles