Who Stole Mona Lisa?

Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books.

A Junior Library Guild Selection

One of Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2010

Narrated by the lady of the enigmatic smile herself—and brought to life with gorgeous paintings that take the reader from da Vinci's renaissance right up to the present day—this is a stylishly whimsical biography of the glorious, wonderful, sometimes dangerous life of the most well-recognized painting of all time.


This inventive book’s $20,000 Pyramid category would be “What Mona Lisa Might Say.” Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa closely observes the people who come to see her in the Louvre: “People with up hair. People with down hair.” She hears the guide ask, “Is it a growing smile or a knowing smile? A shy smile or a sly smile?” and can even smell garlic on museum-goers’ breath. One fateful night in August 1911, she hears footsteps. Someone rips her framed self right off the wall. (“Ouch!”) Her Italian thief adores her, but he stows her under his stove for safekeeping: “Now, instead of crowds, I saw cobwebs. / Instead of admirers, ants.” The engaging, rhythmic-but-not-rhyming text fuses deliciously with McElmurry’s marvelous artwork--its flat, decorative style, skewed head angles, strong lines and rich gouache colors echo both illuminated manuscripts and the Sienese school of painting. Mona Lisa’s ever-changing expressions and comical details (such as a Maine fisherman with his lobster at the Louvre) are priceless. Ornamental borders and an occasional cartoon bubble contribute to the arresting design. A gem.
—Kirkus Reviews, (starred)

...In McElmurry's decoratively stylized gouache art, the portrait also expresses emotion, from demure affection for her creator to tearful grief while in the thief's custody. "I was famous for being famous," says Mona Lisa, and concludes with her joyful 1913 reunion with an adoring public. Though the strongly delineated art here doesn't suggest the painting's enigmatic power, it nicely evokes both the lively events and the passage of time. An entertaining introduction to the world of art history as well as to this particular painting. An author's note is appended. —The Horn Book

Buy this book. See inside. This book is available in Japanese, Turkish, and in a softbound British-market edition.

© 2015 Jill McElmurry