- Age Range: 10 - 14 years
- Grade Level: 5 - 9
- Lexile Measure: 840L (What's this?)
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (April 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0689821212
- ISBN-13: 978-0689821219
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #291,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Second Mrs. Gioconda Paperback – April 1, 1998
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About the Author
E.L. Konigsburg is the only author to have won the Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor in the same year. In 1968, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler won the Newbery Medal and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth was named a Newbery Honor Book. Almost thirty years later she won the Newbery Medal once again for The View from Saturday. Among her other acclaimed books are Silent to the Bone, The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place, and The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World.
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And that's about as good as the book gets, honestly.
I can't really explain why I didn't like it except to say that I feel like Konigsburg didn't know what book she was writing. The "mystery" of the Mona Lisa is never explained or even really fleshed out; in fact, the famous painting doesn't get its first mention until the last three pages. She attempts, in those pages, to draw this long, complex comparison of the woman who became the Mona Lisa to Beatrice, but it feels rushed and entirely out of place. All of a sudden, WHAM!, the explanation smacks the reader in the face. There's no subtlety, there's no craft, it just...is. Salai's interior monologue basically says And Leonardo will paint this woman because she will remind him of Beatrice, the end. It felt completely thrown together
My other challenge -- and the one, honestly, that upset me more -- was the haphazard way she threw in details that I find it hard to believe ever existed. She admits that Leonardo didn't think much of the real Salai. In his notebooks, he described him as a thief, a liar, and a mule-head. It's clear that he had some fondness because, in the end, Salai was mentioned in his will, but the book raises Salai up as both a liar and a wonderful human being. I felt like he was completely inconsistent, because even though he was constantly doing small, immoral things, he was also the lens through which we were meant to see the wonder of this world, and it contrasted severely. More than that, Konigsburg villianized DaVinci. A lot. In the last chapters, he's described as a petty man with low self esteem and it's insinuated that Salai is becoming the person who decides what he will do, when, and with who. I find it hard to believe that one of the greatest minds of the human race would be manipulated left and right by a twenty-year-old. I also just find it hard to believe that anything in this book happened the way it was described.
I was really disappointed. I thought this would be mysterious and fun. Instead, it was boring, bland, and unrealistic. The only boon was that it was short, but that really didn't win it enough points for me to find it at all worth while.