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Hers is the most famous portrait in the world. Here, in prose as rich as the high Renaissance, is Mona Lisa's tale'a story of passion, intrigue, loss, and, most of all, love. Elisabetta longs for romance, though she thinks she is too plain. Then, on a fateful visit to glittering Florence, she catches the eye of the great Leonardo da Vinci, and falls for a boy named Giuliano de? Medici. It is a dangerous time to be'or be involved with'a Medici. As tragedy and chaos threaten their happiness, Elisabetta faces the bittersweet truth of love.

Author Notes

Donna Jo Napoli was born on February 28, 1948. She received a B.A. in mathematics, an M.A. in Italian literature, and a Ph.D. in general and romance linguistics from Harvard University. She has taught on the university level since 1970, is widely published in scholarly journals, and has received numerous grants and fellowships in the area of linguistics.

In the area of linguistics, she has authored five books, co-authored six books, edited one book, and co-edited five books. She is also a published poet and co-editor of four volumes of poetry. Her first middle grade novel, Soccer Shock, was published in 1991. Her other novels include the Zel, Beast, The Wager, Lights on the Nile, Skin, Storm, Hidden, and Dark Shimmer. She is also the author of several picture books including Flamingo Dream, The Wishing Club: A Story About Fractions, Corkscrew Counts: A Story About Multiplication, The Crossing, A Single Pearl, and Hands and Hearts. She has received several awards including the New Jersey Reading Association's M. Jerry Weiss Book Award for The Prince of the Pond and the Golden Kite Award for Stones in Water.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-10-In the Florentine countryside, Monna Elisabetta struggles to become the noblewoman she's destined to be. Although her father is challenged to keep his silk business thriving during difficult economic times, Monna's mother is planning to give her an elaborate 13th birthday party in order to meet a suitable husband. But upon Mamma's sudden death, the event is canceled, and Monna turns her grief into preparing meals and working alongside her father. His friend Leonardo da Vinci has introduced her to Giuliano de' Medici, who becomes smitten with her smile. When her father remarries into nobility, Monna is forced into an arranged marriage, despite the fact that she has given her heart to Giuliano. This tribute to the woman behind Leonardo's masterpiece is another wonderfully researched and well-crafted novel from Napoli. Artfully blending fact and fiction, the author tells a tender story of a girl coming of age during a turbulent time. Readers will be moved by the plight of this three-dimensional protagonist.-Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

One of the great mysteries, the secret of Mona Lisa's smile, is captivatingly addressed in this fictional history of the woman who posed for Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting. Readers will immediately warm up to Elisabetta, who is down-to-earth and hardworking despite being a member of the nobility. First met when she is just shy of 13, she is shepherded through Florence by her family friend Leonardo, who recognizes her potential: "Mysteries promise in those limpid eyes," he tells her, "as though you're watching and waiting. As though nothing will really surprise you. It's unsettling." Yearning for Giuliano de' Medici, youngest son of the most powerful and influential Florentine family, she reluctantly agrees to marry another man when political upheaval tears her and Giuliano apart; years later, fleetingly reunited, Giuliano commissions Leonardo to paint her portrait. Napoli (Stones in Water) conjures the atmosphere of Renaissance Florence as Elisabetta, a country girl, is introduced to art, culture and conspicuous wealth during her trips to town. The historical detail and the romantic tragedy and redemption will prompt a closer inspection of Leonardo's masterpiece. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Middle School) The novel opens with twelve-year-old Elisabetta's mother planning a party to secure a husband for her only child. Elisabetta's father trades in silk, and the family is noble, but, as Elisabetta explains, "We are neither city folk nor rich." The city to which she refers is Florence, and the time is the High Renaissance. Lorenzo de Medici has just died, and with the ascent of his shiftless son Piero, the city finds itself in turmoil. The death of her beloved mother brings Elisabetta great despair until she begins a secret courtship with the youngest Medici brother, Giuliano. Their romance plays out against a backdrop of political intrigue, familial loyalty, and betrayal. Napoli re-creates Renaissance Italy through alluring sensory descriptions, her writing rich with period details. The story is told from Elisabetta's first-person perspective and in the present tense, lending heart-rending immediacy to events such as her mother's sudden accidental death and establishing depth of character for the woman who will become the subject of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. An appended author's note explains that little is known about the real model's identity, but Napoli's textured portrait illuminates a possible life for the woman behind that famous enigmatic smile. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

The identity of the woman the world calls Mona Lisa has ignited speculation since Leonardo da Vinci created her portrait and left it untitled, unsigned, and undated. In this richly embroidered romance set in Renaissance Florence, Napoli imagines the young life of the woman behind the famous smile. Thirteen-year-old Elisabetta, the daughter of a wealthy silk merchant, is starting to think of marriage when Leonardo da Vinci, a family friend, introduces her to young heir Giuliano de' Medici. The teenagers share an instant attraction that deepens into friendship and, finally, love. Political turmoil that escalates into war threatens the young romance, though, and Elisabetta is caught between her passionate attachment to Giuliano and her dutiful obligations to her family. Napoli skillfully draws readers into the vibrant settings, from opulent Florentine palaces to rustic hillside villas, with tangible, sensory details that enliven the novel's intriguing references to history and art. Elisabetta's strength and individuality, as she grows into marriage and motherhood, will captivate readers, as will her wonderment over love's complexity.--Engberg, Gillian Copyright 2008 Booklist