100th Anniversary of Mona Lisa’s return to the Louvre


Who Stole Mona Lisa?

Discover All the Secrets of the Mona Lisa

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Kirkus Star: One of Best Children’s Books of 2010

Kirkus Star

"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."

A Junior Library Guild selection, Fall, 2010

School Library Journal

"Judging by the interest from children’s authors, the theft of the Renaissance masterpiece is as intriguing as the woman’s elusive smile. Patrick Lewis’s The Stolen Smile (Creative, 2004) is told from the thief’s viewpoint, and the art has a Cubist flavor. Meghan McCarthy’s Steal Back the Mona Lisa (Harcourt, 2006) is a cartoon version with a child detective. Knapp, like Rick Jacobson in The Mona Lisa Caper (Tundra, 2005), presents the mysterious woman’s perspective. In contrast to Jacobson’s somewhat lengthy text, Knapp employs the cadences of a storyteller. Short sentences gain momentum from internal rhymes, repeated opening phrases, and humorous details. Beginning with da Vinci’s approach to the portrait sitter’s plight, a museum guide quips: “If she scratched, he asked if she had ants in her pants! When Mona was moody, he hired musicians and clowns to amuse her.” McElmurry’s gouache scenes are lively and varied. The framing story features contemporary museum-goers listening intently to the commentary; set against a white background, every head tilts horizontally toward the painting. The main narrative involves the history of the piece, from creation through its theft and restoration. The cooler introductory palette becomes warmer, harmonizing with the predominance of terra cotta against parchment backgrounds; stylized costumes provide pattern through their vertical folds. Roundels and lunettes frame and reveal interior actions against backdrops of buildings and maps. The titular question is answered in more detail in an author’s note, but the fun is in imagining, with the author, what Mona Lisa can see, smell, feel, and hear throughout five centuries of observation."

Who Stole Mona Lisa? Book Cover


"Knapp takes a clever approach to this look at the Mona Lisa. She tells it from the point of view of the painting, which has had a pretty fine life—from its early days in Leonardo’s studio, through being passed along a line of kings and a squat emperor, to a stately repose in the Louvre. Well, there was that one traumatic incident when she was heisted and hidden under the stove of an Italian housepainter for two years. This history is a terrific way to teach children about the origins of the painting while touching on Leonardo and his techniques, but it’s also a compelling portrait of fame itself, as the Mona Lisa essentially became “famous for being famous,” and people would even visit the Louvre to see its vacated spot on the wall. McElmurry’s fancifully adorned art matches the droll yet reverent tone of the story and moves with ease from gazing crowds, heads turned impossibly sideways in contemplation, to scenes of mustachioed policemen searching high and low for the missing painting. An author’s note completes the picture. Grades 1-3." Ian Chipman

Horn Book

"An entertaining introduction to the world of art history as well as to this particular painting."

Finalist for the Red Clover Award

"The Red Clover Award promotes the reading and discussion of the best of contemporary picture books in nearly all of Vermont's elementary schools. Each year over 20,000 K-4 students read, or have read to them, the ten nominated books.

Round Table for Kids

"A unique way to introduce a child to not only da Vinci's masterpiece but art in general. ...a story that very few adults are aware of so everyone in the family will benefit from reading this book."

To learn more about Who Stole Mona Lisa? Contact Ruthie today.