Navigation Menu
Review:  Who Stole the Mona Lisa-The Louvre with children

Review: Who Stole the Mona Lisa-The Louvre with children

What would it be like to spend your life hanging on a wall?  If you are the Mona Lisa, you preen as a constant stream of admirers pass by, the guides describing how famous you are and remembering what it was like to be painted.  Who Stole the Mona Lisa is told from the Mona Lisa’s point of view; she enjoys the constant adoration and listening to the guide telling the story of how she was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, admired by kings and given to the Louvre by Napoleon Bonaparte.  As much as she enjoys her current fame, she thought posing for her picture was very boring, even falling asleep during a sitting! Then in 1911, she was taken from the wall of the Louvre.  She did not enjoy being stolen!  “First I lurched sideways, then upside down.  I felt sick.  My veil slid over one eye.  A honey cake fell from my lap.”  Going from thousands of adoring admirers to being hidden under the stove with the cobwebs was not her idea of fun!  Even though she was no longer at the Louvre, people still came to view where she had been hanging leaving flowers, letters, poems and songs.  “They wanted to see where I WASN’T.” She was that famous.  The police searched everywhere. After two years, the thief decided it was not safe to keep the Mona Lisa in Paris and he returned to Florence where he tried to sell the painting, claiming that the Mona Lisa was an Italian treasure and needed to be returned to Italy. She hung in the Uffuzi Museum in Florence for over two weeks where over 30,000 people came to visit her on the first day.  Finally she was returned to Paris by express train and once more placed on the four hooks on the wall where she remains to this day, enjoying her admirers. If you’re visiting the Louvre with children, the Mona Lisa is of course on your list of paintings to view.  Who Stole the Mona Lisa is a great introduction to the history of the painting and the panic that ensued when she was stolen by Vincenzo Perugia in 1911. If you’d like to add Who Stole...

Read More
Review:  The Stolen Smile

Review: The Stolen Smile

The Mona Lisa, painted between 1503 and 1506, is one of the most famous paintings in the world and probably Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous work.  Any visit to the Louvre requires at least an attempt to see the Mona Lisa though she is sometimes hidden behind her crowds of admirers!  While painted in Italy, Leonardo sold the painting to King Francis the 1st of France and after the French Revolution (1787-1793), she was hung in the Louvre Museum where she remains to this day. In 1911, an Italian by the name of Vincenzo Peruggia was overcome with the need to repatriate the Mona Lisa, and take it back to Italy.  Told in the first person, The Stolen Smile tells Vincenzo’s story of how he snuck into the Louvre where he had been a former employee, carefully removed the glass hanging in front of the painting and quickly stuffed her in his sack!  Of course there was a panic and through the great illustrations by Gary Kelley, we are given a peek into other areas in the Louvre as they search the Oriental art gallery, the Renaissance, the sculptures, and Egyptian antiquities.  Sixty policemen were dispatched to track down the painting and the city was combed with Guillaum Appolinaire, the poet, and the painter Pabolo Picasso both suspects in the theft.  Vincenzo was himself questioned twice!  Even in the absence of the Mona Lisa, there were queues out the Louvre’s doors, with people waiting hours just to view what was now an empty spot on a wall! Everyone in the city was obsessed and Vincenzo was unable to leave his apartment without seeing headlines of the theft.  Everyone blamed everyone else.  Patiently, Vincenzo waited for the furor to die down and the prominence of the story of the Mona Lisa’s theft to disappear.  For two years, he hid the painting in his tiny Paris garret, waiting for a chance to leave the city with the painting.   Finally, other stories such as the reaching of the South Pole by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen and the sinking of the Titanic eclipsed the story of the Mona Lisa and he felt it was safe to take the Mona Lisa home to...

Read More
Review:  D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths

Review: D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths

All of the books my son is currently reading are based on mythology.  Whether it is one of Rick Riordan’s series or the Lord of the Rings;  Greek mythology, Norse Mythology, Egyptian mythology, they’re all refernced in some form or oanother, so we (well I)  thought it would be good to explore the original myths an not just adaptations.  Reading the original myths led to some great discussions about early beliefs, modern adapations and sources of inspiration for writing. He kept reading ahead, wanting to discuss the stories that I had forgotten about how the world was formed and while I didn’t read under the blackets with a flashlight to catch up, it did cross my mind… D’Aulaires’ Books on Norse and Greek myths are both excellent choices for children’s books on mytho9logy.  The book of Norse Myths begins with the Frost Giants at a time when there was no earth, no sun, no moon, and no stars.  The first gods, Odin, Hoenir and Lodur set the sun and moon to moving and the earth grew out of the bones of the old Frost giant they had vanquished.  The only thing they did not have was someone who would worship them, so they created man. Each chapter tells the story of a different god or goddess, from the more well-known Odin, Thor, Loki, to Sif, Loki’s children, Odin’s children, Balder the God of light, the world of the Vanir gods who controlled the mild and gentle winds, Freya the goddess of love and beauty, the Valkeyries, Frigg-Odin’s favorite wife, and of course Skade, the ski-goddess! Someone we definitely should know more about!  The gods were full of mischief and always getting into entertaining trouble or losing their favorite possessions like Thor’s hammer and Freya’s necklace, ruling until they were defeated by Christianity.   D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths is a great start to learning Norse mythology and it’s been fun sharing the stories my parents read to me as a child.  If you’re interested in adding D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths to your child’s library and sharing the stories you grew up knowing, click...

Read More
Review:  Finding Winnie: the True Story of The World’s Most Famous Bear

Review: Finding Winnie: the True Story of The World’s Most Famous Bear

“Winnie the Pooh” and the “House at Pooh Corner” were often requested when I was growing up and it has been such a pleasure to be able to share them with my children.  With Finding Winnie, we get the story behind the story and my children were delighted to learn that Winnie-the-Pooh started out as a real bear.  Echoing the format of Winnie the Pooh, the book opens with a conversation between a mother and a little boy, Cole, asking for one last story… Just like Christopher Robin, Cole has lots of questions.  Cole’s questions though are about Harry, his great-great grandfather, and Winnie, a black bear cub, his great-great grandfather adopted on the way to Valcartier and took to London along with 36,000 men and 7,500 horses during WWI.  Winnie became the camp mascot and followed Harry everywhere, but when it was time for Harry to be shipped to France, Harry decided it was too risky to take Winnie and that is when the real Christopher Robin entered the picture. This is a wonderful story of an impulsive animal rescue that ended up being the inspiration for a series of stories that have thrilled generations of children, though perhaps the chagrin of the real Christopher Robin whom the public never allowed to grow up! If you’re planning a trip to Winnipeg or the London Zoo, you have to read Finding Winnie and of course all of the Pooh stories written by A. A. Milne.  In Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg, there’s a statute of Harry Colebourn and Winnie as well as the Pooh Gallery filled with Winnie the Pooh Memorabilia.  The real Winnie the Pooh owned by Christopher Robin is on permanent display in the New York Public Library and at the London Zoo,  sure to delight any Winnie-ther-Pooh fans! If you’d like to add Finding Winnie to your child’s collection, click here:  Finding Winnie:  The True Story of the World’s Most Favorite...

Read More
Review: I, Gallileo-Italy with children

Review: I, Gallileo-Italy with children

“Imagine a world with no clocks, thermometers, or telescopes.  A world where everyone believes the earth stands still as the enormous sun travels around it once each day.”  With this opening, I, Galileo sets the stage for the story of the person Albert Einstein called “the father of modern science.”  Told in the first person, a blind and aging Galileo recalls his childhood and the way that he helped his father with his musical experiments after leaving the university with no degree. He questioned traditional beliefs and proved that at least some of Aristotle’s laws of physics were incorrect. Looking through his telescope, Galileo discovered that the sun was the center of the universe. It was then that his troubles truly began. For seven years, he was bound to silence about his findings until a new pope was elected and he was allowed to publish his finding.  However, when Galileo finally published his discoveries about the sun, the moon and the stars, they so incensed people that he was tried by the Inquisition for heresy. And so the story returns to the old man imprisoned in the walled garden, “but the truth?  The truth has a way of escaping into the light.” Though it took until 1992 for the Catholic Church to admit it had been wrong in condemning Galileo and that yes, the sun was the center of our solar system, Galileo’s contributions to modern science such as the telescope, microscope and thermometer continue to be used today.  There’s a chronology of events that occurred during Galileo’s life at the end of the book which was great for helping to put things into perspective as well as a list of some of Galileo’s experiments that would be easy to try at home. “A person must be allowed to ask questions..and seek answers in search of truth.”  What a lovely thought to instill in a child.  I hope I’ve been able to encourage my children to ask questions, though sometimes we do get stuck on “but why?”  If you’re traveling to Pisa, I, Galileo, is a great introduction to one of its most famous citizens.  The Tower of Pisa has been restored and you can climb up to the top (children must be...

Read More
Dublin with children-Day 2

Dublin with children-Day 2

Dublin is a very family friendly city with lots of ways to see the sights.  Both the Dublin Bus Tour and City Sightseeing offer hop-on-hop-off bus services that narrate the sights and let you get on and off at 24 locations throughout the city.  You can buy the tickets on the bus, online, or at a tourist office and don’t need to start at any particular point.  The Dublin Bus Tour is free for two children for each adult and City Sightseeing offers a family package for the price of two adult tickets.  Officially, the tours are an hour and a half in length, but that assumes you don’t stop at all. The tickets are generally good for 48 hours, so don’t feel as if you have to cram everything in on one day.  Our first hop off was at Dublina, the viking and medieval history center.  Dublina is included in the Dublin pass, but you can also buy tickets individually and you receive a discount if you’re on the hop-on-hop-off tour.   Located in the synod hall of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublina is a hands on multi-media museum starting off on the ground floor with the viking exhibit, working its way through medieval Dublin and ending on the third floor with an archaeology exhibit. During the summer there were re-enactors including Olaf, the Viking coin minter, Peter Higley, the Medieval Merchant, Asa, the Viking housewife, Maggie, the Medieval woman and Walter the sea sick sailor.  There were also plenty of opportunities to dress up, including as a knight.  The Medieval section included a medieval fair, with games to play and the archaeology section includes actual artifacts that have been found in and around Dublin.  The self-guided tours take approximately 55 minutes, but my kids could have spent a lot longer playing some of the games. At the top of Dublina, a bridge connects the Synod Hall to Christ Church cathedral proper, the oldest medieval church in Dublin.  It was established around 1030 and parts of the existing structure still date back to the 1180s.  Entrance fees can be paid separately, in combination with the entrance fees for Dublina or as part of the Dublin Pass. The welcome to Christ Church Cathedral includes a map of the highlights...

Read More

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)