The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity

by Nicholas Day (Author) Brett Helquist (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 6th − 7th Grade

A propulsive work of narrative nonfiction about how the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre, how the robbery made the portrait the most famous artwork in the world--and how the painting by Leonardo da Vinci should never have existed at all.

On a hot August day in Paris, just over a century ago, a desperate guard burst into the office of the director of the Louvre and shouted, La Joconde, c'est partie! The Mona Lisa, she's gone!

No one knew who was behind the heist. Was it an international gang of thieves? Was it an art-hungry American millionaire? Was it the young Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, who was about to remake the very art of painting?

Travel back to an extraordinary period of revolutionary change: turn-of-the-century Paris. Walk its backstreets. Meet the infamous thieves--and detectives--of the era. And then slip back further in time and follow Leonardo da Vinci, painter of the Mona Lisa, through his dazzling, wondrously weird life. Discover the secret at the heart of the Mona Lisa--the most famous painting in the world should never have existed at all.

Here is a middle-grade nonfiction, with black-and-white illustrations by Brett Helquist throughout, written at the pace of a thriller, shot through with stories of crime and celebrity, genius and beauty.

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Helquist's cartoonlike black-and-white illustrations do an excellent job of matching the narrative voice and bringing the book's dramatic moments to life.


Starred Review

A multistranded yarn skillfully laid out in broad, light brush strokes with some cogent themes mixed in.


Starred Review
A completely engaging book.
Nicholas Day
Nicholas Day is the author of The Mona Lisa Vanishes, a middle-grade
book of narrative nonfiction about the theft of the Mona Lisa. For adults, he's the author of Baby Meets World, a work about the science and history of infancy, which Mary Roach called "a perfect book." He lives in Western Massachusetts with his family.

Chris Raschka is the Caldecott-Medal-winning and Hans Christian Andersen Award-nominated author and illustrator of dozens of books for young readers, including The Hello, Goodbye Window, A Ball for Daisy, and Yo! Yes? He is also a violinist. He lives in New York City.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Random House Studio
Publication date
September 05, 2023
BISAC categories
JNF006040 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Art | History
JNF025070 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | Europe
JNF030000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Law & Crime
Library of Congress categories
Art thefts

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