Reading guide for Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

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by Cornelia Funke

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke X
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2003, 544 pages

    Jun 2005, 560 pages


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Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

About This Books

Mortimer is a bookbinder and has passed on his great love of books to his daughter Meggie, but he has never read aloud to her. When a stranger named Dustfinger appears at their home, Meggie's world turns upside down. She soon learns some startling truths — about her mother's disappearance nine years earlier, and the mysterious book called Inkheart that her father tries desperately to hide at the book-filled home of Elinor, Meggie's great aunt.  She learns that the reason Mo has never read aloud to her is because he has a secret, mysterious, dangerous gift — when he reads aloud, objects and characters come out of the books — a skill he discovered when Capricorn, the dark villain of Inkheart, came into the world when Meggie was three. Teresa, Meggie's mother, disappeared at the same time, presumably into the story.

Capricorn uses Dustfinger, who is another character from the story, to lure Mo and Meggie to his hideout village; there Meggie sees a demonstration of her father's reading skill when he brings gold treasure out of Treasure Island and a young Arab boy out of the Arabian Nights. When Dustfinger learns Capricorn's true plans, he helps Mo, Meggie, and Elinor escape over the hills. Mo searches out Fenoglio, the author of the book, and together they devise a plan to foil Capricorn's terrible schemes. But Meggie is recaptured along with Fenoglio, and Capricorn discovers that she, too, has the same magical gift.  In a rousing finish, Fenoglio and Meggie find a way to foil Capricorn's plans — with surprising results.

Discussion Points


  1. Why does Mo keep his ability a secret from Meggie? Why has he never told her the truth about her mother?

  2. Why doesn't Dustfinger read the ending of the story when he has the chance in Meggie's bedroom? What stops him?

  3. Does Elinor like books more than people? Has she truly been happy living alone with all her books? How does Elinor change in the course of the story, and what causes her to change?

  4. In what ways does Basta's superstitious nature affect him and others in the story? Why is Basta so superstitious?

  5. Why does Farid follow Dustfinger? Why does Dustfinger keep trying to get away from Farid? What does Dustfinger mean when he says he has often just been a spectator?

  6. When Meggie and Fenoglio are taken to Capricorn, why isn't Fenoglio afraid? What do you think it would feel like for an author to see his characters in real life? Does Fenoglio ever fear the characters from the book as much as the others do?

  7. When does Meggie first realize that her mother is alive and no longer trapped in the story? What do you think it was like for Teresa to be trapped in the book?

  8. Fenoglio says he was very proud of writing about the Shadow when he wrote Inkheart, so he knows the passage by heart. How does he feel about the Shadow coming to life? Does he really believe he can change the story's ending?

  9. Why do Basta and the Magpie remain when the other characters disappear?

  10. Why did Fenoglio disappear at the end? Did he go into the book? If so, do you think he planned this? Was it his curiosity about the world of his creation, or was it an accident?


  1. Why does Meggie feel more at home in Mo's van than in their house?

  2. What do we learn of Elinor's character from the description of her home?

  3. In how many ways did Capricorn make the village where he lives his own? How was it possible for him to create such a hideout in the "real world"?

  4. Why did so many of the characters decide to stay in Capricorn's village at the end?


  1. How many secrets can you identify in the story? How does keeping a secret affect a character's life and interaction with others? What does Meggie mean when she says, "Why do grownups think it's easier for children to bear secrets than to bear the truth?"

  2. The theme of truth and lies occurs throughout the story. Find examples of times when one character lies to another. Are there times when it is better not to know the truth? When are lies used for good reasons and when are lies used to hurt people? What is the difference between a lie and a secret?

  3. Fire represents many things to many people in this story. What is the meaning of fire to Dustfinger? Basta? Capricorn? Mo? Farid? Elinor?

  4. Fear is a strong motivating force in this story. Who is motivated by fear? Which characters use fear to control others? Discuss ways in which certain characters control and overcome their fears.

  5. What is the author saying about the power of imagination in this tale? How does Mo bring imaginative things to life? Why can't he control the people that come to life through his reading? What is the difference between reality and imagination?

  6. Mo tells Meggie that "Most people don't stop to think of books being written by people much like themselves. They think that writers are all dead long ago... " Do you think this is true? Is Mo more connected to Fenoglio's story than the author himself? Are you aware of the author when you are reading a book?

Books Mentioned in Inkheart           

1001 Arabian Nights (Oxford Story Collections), retold by Geraldine McCaughrean. Oxford, 2000.  These stories told by the wily Shaharazad to save her life are full of adventure, treasure, magic, and heroism.

Barrie, Sir James Matthew.  Peter Pan. (Scholastic Classics)  Scholastic, 2002.
Peter Pan, aided by his companion Tinker Bell, is the leader of the Lost Boys in Neverland who battle the wicked Captain Hook and his pirates.

Ende, Michael.  The Neverending Story. Puffin, 1996.  Bastian Balthazar Bux enters the enchanted world of Fantastica through the pages of an ancient and mysterious book to rescue the fairy people who live there.

Goldman, William. The Princess Bride.  Ballantine, 1990.  A story of love, hatred, giants, dwarves, courage, cowardice, revenge, escape, truth, lies, fantastical beasts, and a satisfying end.

Silverstein, Shel. Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings.  HarperCollins, 1974.  Silverstein's poems about everything from unicorns to television sets are characterized by sly humor and insight that have delighted countless readers.

Stevenson, Robert Louis.  Treasure Island (Scholastic Classics)  Scholastic, 2001. This classic tale of Jim Hawkins' adventures on the high seas with the villainous Long John Silver has been a favorite of many generations.

White, T. H.  The Sword in the Stone, illus by Dennis Nolan. Philomel, 1993. Merlin oversees the education of the Wart, who will grow up to become Arthur, the Once and Future King of Britain.

Related Reading

Crossley-Holland, Kevin.  The Seeing Stone.  Scholastic, 2001.
A boy named Arthur, living in 13th century England, watches a story unfolding in a magic stone — the story of the birth and growth of his namesake, the great legendary King of Britain.  His story continues in At the Crossing Places (Scholastic, 2002).

Mahy, Margaret.  The Great Piratical Rumbustification & the Librarian and the Robbers.    David R. Godine, 2001.  Imagine having a gang of pirates as your babysitters or a librarian who can charm bloodthirsty bandits by reading aloud to them.

Sanvoisin, Eric.  The Ink Drinker.  Delacorte, 1998
A boy watches a weird man in his father's bookstore silently sipping the words out of the books; following him to a nearby graveyard, he discovers that the ghoulish stranger is a vampire who lives on ink rather than blood.

Townley, Roderick.   The Great Good Thing.  Atheneum, 2001.
12 year old Princess Sylvie breaks out of the book in which she is a character and into the dreams of her Reader, leading other characters to a new existence where they have to make up their own story, and remind the girl who loves them of the importance of their story.

Discussion guide written by Connie Rockman, children's literature consultant and adjunct professor of literature for children and young adults at the University of Bridgeport and Sacred Heart University, and editor of The Eighth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators (H. W. Wilson, 2000).  Reproduced with the permission of Scholastic Books.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Scholastic. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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