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

The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity By Nicholas Day, Brett Helquist (Illustrator) Cover Image

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

By Nicholas Day, Brett Helquist (Illustrator)


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A “witty thriller” (The New York Times) for middle-grade readers 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.

SIBERT MEDAL WINNER • BOSTON GLOBE—HORN BOOK AWARD WINNER • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, NPR, The New York Public Library, The Chicago Public Library, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

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.
NICHOLAS DAY is the author of Baby Meets World, a work of narrative nonfiction for adults about the science and history of infancy, which Mary Roach called “a perfect book.” He has written regularly for Slate; his work has also appeared in the Atlantic, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among other publications. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his family.

BRETT HELQUIST is the illustrator of classics such as A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, The House of Bunnicula by James Howe, and books by Blue Balliet, including the New York Times bestselling Chasing Vermeer. Visit him on the Web at or on Instagram at @bhelquist.

Product Details ISBN: 9780593643846
ISBN-10: 0593643844
Publisher: Random House Studio
Publication Date: September 5th, 2023
Pages: 288
Language: English
“[A] witty thriller." —The New York Times

“One of the best books of 2023, bar none.” —Betsy Bird, School Library Journal Fuse #8 blog

“The tale of a stunning art heist told with a contagious love of stranger-than-fiction true stories!” —Steve Sheinkin, Newbery Honor–winning author of Bomb
“A thrilling, often hilarious, page-turning read.  Kids will devour it. I know I did.” —Candace Fleming, Sibert Honor–winning author of The Family Romanov

★ "A multistranded yarn skillfully laid out in broad, light brush strokes with some cogent themes mixed in." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ "A completely engaging book." —Booklist, starred review

★ "A wildly entertaining, thoroughly contextualized look at art, history, and fame." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"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." —The Horn Book

"The playful prose in direct address charmingly invites readers into a story that details everything from the stuffy gender roles of fifteenth-century Florence to a wildly inept police investigation to a rather deceitful and not at all admirable Pablo Picasso." —The Bulletin

"An intriguing exploration of a significant yet little-known event." —School Library Journal