While we all have seen the famous painting of Mona Lisa, have you heard its story? Most people are sitting around twiddling their thumbs, wondering why she is smiling. That is not the important question. The real mystery is this: why would Leonardo Da Vinci, the most famous artist of his time, choose to depict an unimportant merchant’s wife when royalty all over offered for him to name his price? And even those were refused.
Why? Is the mystery of the Mona Lisa lost, the history pages glancing over the true story? No. The answer lies with Salai, Da Vinci’s apprentice. Lies with Salai is a fitting sentence, for his honesty is questionable. The missing piece to the puzzle is only understood by him, and him alone. It is he that this story is about.
When I first heard this story, I was about 12. I just finished reading it, and it was almost as good as the first time.
While the premise of the story is only a guess as to answer of the true question, “Why did Leonardo paint this picture at all?”, it is interesting how Konigsburg chose to make this a children’s story. The story is not about Mona Lisa, nor why she is smiling, because that is beside the point.
It is written in a children’s style, but the overall theme was far from a simple kid’s book. I kept finding things in the pages that stood out that had a deeper meaning, and kept drawing things from the dialogue that were very interesting. So, in a sense, I almost wish she had directed the book towards an older audience and written it accordingly.
Because I heard it when I was younger, I know that, even then, I liked it a lot. However, reading it later, it is then that the story strikes me, but the reading level doesn’t quite catch up what the story left me with.
Aside from those notes, the only thing I didn’t care for was Salai as a character. Sure, he was quite funny, and if you have read the False Prince you may recognize that type of mischief-making scamp, but he was also a bit impersonal. He obviously has a back story, and he also has a sister and father at home, yet he never speaks of them. It could have been interesting, not to mention making the story a tad longer (it is quite short, albeit fascinating).
Note: While this book is interesting, do not take it as fact!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Audience: Ages 7 and up, enjoyable for most.