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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...

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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...

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Review: A Lion in Paris-Paris with children

Review: A Lion in Paris-Paris with children

The lion was bored, so where else would he go but the City of Light?  The lonely, bored lion is nervous about being in the big city wondering what people will think of him.  He’s not too sure what he thinks of them!  Told from the perspective of the lion, A Lion in Paris relates the strange things the lion finds in the city as he struggle to find his place including everyone carrying swords (baguettes), the noise of the metro (no one heard him when he roared), the thousand stars of light glinting off of a huge factory (Centre Pompidou), the girl who finally notices him (the Mona Lisa), the white castle (Sacre Coeure), and the enormous iron tower (the Eiffel Tower). For children who have visited or know the sights of Paris, the Lion’s perspective will elicit lots of giggles.    — I’ll have to keep an eye on the potential use of baguettes as swords now that they have the idea in their heads!  It’s always fun to see the places your favorite characters visited.  Nonetheless, I went back and forth on this book, trying to determine what I thought about it.  My boys found it enjoyably silly.  I enjoyed the tour of the city, but found the book as a whole a little odd.  We will still be on the look out for the statue in the Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris the next time we visit and we may very well stop at the Cafe de Flore for coffee, just like the lion. If you’d like to add this book to your child’s library, click here:  A Lion in...

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Review: The Pilot and the Little Prince-France with children

Review: The Pilot and the Little Prince-France with children

 “Long ago in France, at the turn of the last century, a little boy was born to be an adventurer.”  Isn’t that what travel is about?  Adventure? Meeting new people, seeing new places, discovering new things-whatever inspires you to travel, The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry will inspire you to explore more. The story includes a biography of Saint-Exupery against a backdrop of the impact of the beginnings of aviation and the unfolding of the chaos of two world wars.  The author manages to weave the disparate themes together with wonderful illustrations and a passion for exploration and travel as Saint-Exupéry flies routes through France, Spain, Morocco, Western Sahara, Senegal, and South America. This is a beautifully illustrated book that captures the spirit and beauty of early flight, as well as a boy’s passions.  The limited text running along the bottom can be a little disjointed, but the illustrations and additional details on the history of flight provide a treasure trove of additional information and are very evocative of the Little Prince.  While the ending is sad, it doesn’t dwell on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s death, but is truly a celebration of his life and the joy of...

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Review: The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux- France

Review: The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux- France

Buried treasure, secret caves, -the perfect set up for an adventure during school holidays.   In this fictionalized retelling of the discovery of the Caves of Lascaux, Jaques, JoJo, and Simon are playing war games against the backdrop of World War II when an older boy, Marcel, tells them of a very deep hole his dog had fallen into the day before.  Marcel thinks it’s the entrance to a secret tunnel with treasure buried by one of the nobles in the region.  Who could resist a search for buried treasure?  Abandoning their games, they follow Marcel to where he thinks the tunnel begins. The entrance to the secret tunnel if big enough for a dog, but not for a person.  The boys take turns widening the hole until they can fit one by one.  Dropping down, they land in an entrance to a small tunnel and with the help of a few lanterns, start crawling along.  They’re sure this must be the entrance to the count’s tunnel, but when they get to the end they find not gold, but a large cave filled with wall paintings of animals that don’t live in the region any more.  After they climb out, they promise to keep the caves secret, but before too long all of the village children have found out about their discovery and they all want a chance to see it.  After some debate, the boys finally decide to tell their teacher about the discovery, but initially he doesn’t believe them and thinks they’re trying to play a trick on him.  When he sees the caves he cannot believe his eyes and tells the boys that France’s greatest expert on prehistoric art, the Abbot Henri Breuil, has fled occupied Paris and is staying nearby.   Abbot Breuil charges the boys with protection of the treasure and even in the midst of World War II, the discovery was reported in newspapers all over the world. Based on anecdotal accounts, The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux by Emily Arnold McCully captures your imagination and sense of adventure and makes history come to life.  What child hasn’t imagine making some sort of fabulous discovery?  The Caves of Lascaux are located in the Dordogne region in Southwestern...

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