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The Smile


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About the Author

Donna Jo Napoli ( is the author of Crazy Jack, The Magic Circle, Stones in Water, and many other books, and is the chairperson of the linguistics department at Swarthmore College.


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 Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Praise for The Smile

"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." -- Booklist "The historical detail and the romantic tragedy and redemption will prompt a closer inspection of Leonardo's masterpiece." -- Publishers Weekly "Through this deeply personal story, Napoli paints a magnificent and mournful portrait of the Italian Renaissance, both tragic and triumphat."-- Kirkus Reviews "Napoli's textured portrait illuminates a possible life for the woman behind that famous enigmatic smile."-- The Horn Book

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