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The Smile

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,709 ratings  ·  225 reviews
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 Giulia
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published October 16th 2008 by Dutton Children's Books (first published August 29th 2008)
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3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,709 ratings  ·  225 reviews

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Emma Iadanza
Mar 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned

So I took it out from the library - I had waited like a week to get it because it had to come from another library. And then I had to finish reading another book, and I was getting super excited because I love Giuliano de' Medici - and there aren't enough books about him (that are in English and not Latin). So I started reading it and everything went downhill when I read "Il Magnifico is dead!!!" and I said "whhhaaaattt???????" because if Lorenzo
Karen M. Krueger
This story is absolutely amazing. After starting and tossing aside so many dud YA novels lately, I was so excited when this story instantly drew me in--not because the story was instantly exciting, but because Elizabetta (Mona Lisa) is a compelling character. I was able to connect emotionally to the story, and I felt every joy and heartache that Elizabetta felt. It was also quite refreshing to read a story that doesn't nauseate me with the "he's so cute" romance (which I think I've had my fill o ...more
I wanted this to be better than it was. But the narrator really made it difficult to like. She would say names with an Italian accent and say some Italian words, but otherwise it was a straight American accent. They really should have found someone with an Italian accent. It would've made the experience so much better.

The story itself was cute but nothing special. Not sure how much is based on fact or if it was all made up. It was a simple, short story about how the Mona Lisa painting came to b
Jul 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
So interesting. It's the story of Monna Elisabetta, a 13-year-old who lives outside of Florence with her noble-born parents. They regularly visit Florence because her father has a city-home there and also because they have relatives in Florence and her father has business concerns there. Elisabetta's family is friends with Leonardo da Vinci. The book is filled with the sites and sounds of Renaissance Italy. By the time she's 15, Elisabetta has fallen in love with Giuliano de Medici, the youngest ...more
May 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Wow! I'm behind in my books. I loved the historical details of the deMedici family, Da Vinci, and life in Florence, including the Mad Monk! Napoli gives us such an authentic flavor of the times and place. Her doomed love story is hard for my girls to accept...they want a happy ending, not a typical ending to a love story...

I appreciated Napoli's attention to detail, as always. And her story about why Mona Lisa has so little to smile about!
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
The last book that I had read by Donna Jo Napoli was a fairytale variation of Beauty & the Beast that I had enjoyed. So when I found this particular book in my own I decide to give it a test while was surprised to find that it was widely different from "Beast".

Unlike the other book this was provided to the reader by a female protagonist while taking place during Renaissance Italy. The magic isn't in the pages of the story but instead it brings the reader into the madness that is part of th
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
I stole this one for the Bout of Books off my daughter’s shelf. She really is an avid reader, but if a book doesn’t get her attention by the end of the first chapter, the author has lost all hope of getting her to read any further. I am a much more patient reader. Not that this book required that, but I can see how many teens reading it would probably become disinterested for the same reason that the book captivated me.

The Smile is a work of historical fiction and the premise is wonderful. Who h
Charly Troff (ReaderTurnedWriter)
I loved this book! This was one of my first historical fictions and it was also one of the first book I read where the love story didn't happen the way I thought it would (or should). I cried and cried when I finished and it opened up a whole new world of books to me.

Update: Reading this as an adult (and wife and mother) was a totally different experience for me. I had a very different perspective of the love story and the way her life turned out. I still felt the book was very well done and rea
Mar 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Like all of her books, this was slightly painful to read at times, but in a good way. I was slightly disappointed by the ending, but I suspect that I was meant to be disappointed by it. This book also contains the best description of a long-distance relationship that I have ever read. (Oh, and the author is subbing for my Intro Ling class on Tuesday! ::squee::)
Feb 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book made me want to learn about Leonardo da Vinci's Italy! I really liked the main character's personality, her love story, and what she learned about politics and about life. I thought the way she dealt with her problems was very believable, and also admirable, even in part 3. Very quality book, and fun to read!
Oct 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
An entertaining, fictional, tale of the woman behind the "Mona Lisa". There were times when the language and actions of the characters seemed a little too modern for 1400 Florence, which is the main reason I am giving it 3 stars instead of 4. I will say, reading the author's bio, I am impressed with her accomplishments! I look forward to reading something else she has written.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
I picked this up in the Ufizzi in Florence, surely the most felicitous place to find this novel. I have admired many of Napoli's books, but this is one of my favourites. Napoli's evocation of 15th century Tuscany -- its excess, its art, its landscape, its beauty -- is wonderful. Her lush style suits her subjects, and it also gives the reader a vivid history of a tumultuous time in the history of Florence. Elisabetta is only 13 when the story begins, soon to be married off to secure her family's ...more
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I loved the author’s writing style and really connected to the main character, Elisabetta. I was on the road to giving it a rare five stars...until I reached part 3. Part 3 of the book basically renders Lisa’s entire relationship with Giuliano pointless, and the ending was so unsatisfactory that I just stared at the book afterwards for like 5 minutes. It’s worth the read, though.
Cristina Duque
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Very good story, but not historically accurate.
The author didn't look into the time period, the speech is more modern with a slight twist, 1800s speech with modern, that is not how they spoke.
The manner of the people, how they carried themselves and attitude is wrong.
The story is wonderful and creative, but the author clearly did not do any research into the time period, which takes my rating of the book down.
A very good plot, just not accurate.
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I believe that this book is very informative about it's era and describes very nicely women's feelings and behavior. With this book i travel through time and visit Florence's in her best time when there were excellent artists like michelangelo. Furthermore, i was very thrilled to know more about mona lisa and understand her story. Now, after i finished this book i am very curious about Giuliano de' medici and i want to know more about his history.
Jan 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Based on the description, I thought I was reading an art history book, focused on the relationship with DaVinci and Monna Elizabetta. Instead it was VERY simply written and was really a romance story. DaVinci plays a minor role in this book.
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not every young-adult historical fiction novel is great, but this one is. I found myself immersed in the Italian renaissance, and the way Napoli brings it to life. Her descriptions brought me back to being in Italy, and everything in the book was as vivid as my memories.
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I absolutely loved every part of this book. It left me crying and outwardly reacting to my book in the middle of English class. To anyone who likes historical fiction, the renaissance, Italian history, and romance... read this book!
Rebeka Griffiths
Sep 03, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a fun, easy read. Great for vacation and made me drool over the description of food.
 Julie Caesar (Chiyu)
Kinda insta-love throughout and, honestly, 13-15 year olds proclaiming undying love to each other will always be ridiculous to me. But still, the story was good (needed more Leonardo though).
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I gave it this because some parts of the book did not keep me super engaged.. It was not something I loved.
Heather Layne
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013-books
About 50 pages into this, I wasn't sure I wanted to keep reading it. By 100 pages in, I still wasn't sure. Then the first big tragedy happened, and I couldn't stop.

The writing was overly flowery sometimes. Usually I like description, but this just didn't sit well with me. Elisabetta, the main character, is not quite 13 at the start of the book, and I couldn't really "buy" her voice. Twelve-year-olds don't talk or think like that, 15th century noble or not. A lot of it also seemed like the autho
Cheryl A
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya-historical
The age old question of who was the woman behind the Mona Lisa has been creatively answered by author Donna Jo Napoli. The Smile tells the story of Elisabetta, the 13 year old daughter of minor nobility in late 1490 Florence as she grows into womanhood.

Elisabetta lives outside of Florence at Villa Vignamaggio with her mother and father, a silk merchant. Preparations are underway for a birthday celebration to present Elisabetta to Florencee society and to find a potential husband. Elisabetta abho
Dec 04, 2010 rated it liked it
This book was ok. I think I liked the idea, better than i actually liked the book. It is about Monna Lisa in Florence Italy. However, I had a hard time thinking of the girl i was reading about and the woman in the actual painting as the same person. I also wished there was more of Leonardo Divinci through out the book. Again, like other books by this author that i have read, it is probably ok for older teenagers, but it talks freely of menstruation,pregnancy, and specifics of how one gets pregna ...more
Mary Sanchez
Aug 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The book jacket and the author's name enticed me to read the book. I even pointed out to some studets the area in Florence where my husband and I have had lodging. It impressed them that the area was on the book jacket.

At age thirteen, Monna Elisabetta, of noble birth, lives in the Chianti countryside outside Florence, where she loves helping her father with his silk business by taking care of the silkworms. Then at the funeral of Lorenzo de' Medici, Elisabetta, is reaquainted with her father's
Apr 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
A beautifully crafted book about Mona Elisabetta and her relationship with Giuliano de Medici, Leonardo da Vinci, and the tumultuous times during the fall of the Medicis and the rise of Girolamo Savonarola. Betta is a dutiful daughter, expecting her 13th birthday party to result in a betrothal. However, while planning the party, her mother unexpectedly dies, leaving her and her father stricken with grief. Her papa quickly finds another wife, which is customary in these times, but Betta is incons ...more
Charley Harpole
Jun 19, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In the Florentine countryside, Monna Elisabetta struggles to become the noblewoman she's destined to be. In those times that is what a young lady is supposed to do. It is practically a law. 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 meal ...more
This book grew on me and serves to remind me once again to be careful about books I choose to DNF. The first third was a slog. Elizabetta, the female MC, was a brat for the first half of the book and there were times where I questioned the historical veracity of the author's language to the point that it took me out of the story (I'm still unconvinced that "country bumpkin" is a turn of phrase we get from the Italian Renaissance).

HOWEVER, the last fifth of this book really saved it for me. Why?
Hafsah Faizal
Sep 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Smile is a beautiful and heart-breaking story of the mysterious Mona Lisa that takes place during the Renaissance. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a book to curl up and read on a rainy day.

13 year old, Elisabetta is getting ready for a party, where she'll meet someone and become bethrothed to. Everything sounds perfect, she's happy and so are her loving parents. When they ride out to buy decorations, her mother's horse falters and cracks her neck in two.

With her beloved mother g
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Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children's and YA fiction. She loves to garden and bake bread, and even dreams of moving to the woods and becoming a naturalist.

At various times her house and yard have been filled with dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits. For thirteen years she had a cat named Taxi, and liked to go outside and call, "Taxi!" to make the neighbors wonder. But dear dear
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