By Mary Hoffman

Ellena’s review
This book was an intriguing read, it weaves art history into the plot and is fairly reliable at doing so; the narrator and main character (Lisa) of this story I found rather intolerable due to her materialistic ideal. The book was very good at hinting that the main character was Da Vinci’s masterpiece – Mona Lisa, whilst also showing how long of a process art truly takes. It showed the definitive class divides that Florence had in 1482 and gave a fiction response to the terror in a non-fiction aspect which made the book very easy to follow. The plot had exciting turns which I didn't always expect, I didn't realise how much background information would be put into the book and how fast I could learn it. Although there were some serious parts to the book majority had light hearted tone. I would recommend this book to my peers – even those who aren't a big fan of art history as it is still understandable with no knowledge of the Renaissance background or Florence in this era. It is a light read but a captivating one at that, I enjoyed following the plot and the characters during this era.

Isabelle’s review
Smile is a very readable book that I got through quickly. However, I didn’t really get a very emotional connection with Lisa, as the story is so fast-paced that her emotions are not explained in depth. My favourite character is Ginerva, as she is kind and good to Lisa. The period that the story is set in is, I think, the Renaissance and the references to actual art help the reader gain a better understanding of the meanings behind the artwork. The plot was very realistic, perhaps too much so, as the description of everyday life can sometimes leave the reader uninterested. I would recommend it to people who like realistic and creative stories about the past.

Star rating ★★★★

Emilia’s review
The plot in one sentence: A novella packed with intriguing historical events following the life of Mona Lisa.

Is it a good read? Yes, 100%, very interesting.

Does it have good historical content and factual information? I would say yes, but at the same time I don’t know much about the Mona Lisa. Yes, history features often and used as a component as well as a setting.

I think it does inspire readers to find out more, it made me want to find out more.

The best thing I learned from it was the hardships of Florence’s people. It was very interesting.

Maryam’s review
Smile is the captivating tale of the world's most renowned portrait: The Mona Lisa. It tells the story of the woman behind the charming smile, starting at the age of fifteen, when Lisa was a young and hopelessly romantic woman in Florence, dreaming of the man who sketched her for the first time when she was small – Leonardo Da Vinci. Italian society encouraged women to get married at a youthful age so Lisa married into a wealthy family. When Leonardo was back in Florence after attending to work in Milan, Lisa's husband wanted a portrait of her to keep, and Leonardo offered to do it, promising to return it once it was finished, but of course we now know that the promise was broken.

I enjoyed this book because it gave me a taste of early Italian life, letting me experience a different culture through the pleasure of a story.

Although this book was insightful, I thought that the range of words were slightly childish for a year seven – nine age group and that it was a bit too short.

Overall, I loved this book and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in historical fiction and to children ages eleven plus, as some areas in the book are somewhat mature.

I would rate this book 9.5/10.

Claudia F’s review
My favourite character was Lisa because she was kind and loving. I didn’t like Savonarola because he was evil and ungrateful. I learnt about the life of Leonardo da Vinci. It was an interesting time period because not many books are set in that time. The time period was realistic because of the clothes, lifestyle, and beliefs. It made me want to find out more about the Savonarola and his gangs. The plot was thought-provoking and interesting. I think the section with the Savonarola gangs stood out because it was exciting and interesting. I enjoyed it enough so I would probably recommend it. My problem with the book was how there wasn’t much information on the children after their births which were such big events.

Star rating ★★★★

Isabella A’s review
I loved the story of this book. I thought it was intriguing and a real page-turner yet I thought the author wanted to pack in so much information that it ruined the way it was written. Having said that, I loved reading about all the culture and wonder of Florence.

I also think that I would recommend this book for ages 10 – 13 as it is a very easy, quick read, especially art lovers, especially because I think they would have some interest in the subject and the historical side of the novel.

Star rating ★★★

Seren’s review
Brief outline of story: This book is about Mona Lisa. How she grew up and fell in love. Did you know that Mona Lisa had this picture painted of her by Leonardo da Vinci? Mona Lisa used to smile, but then she stopped. Why did she stop? Something happened, but what?

Who are the main characters? The main characters are Mona Lisa and Leonardo da Vinci.

This book isn’t amazing but I’m not interested in Mona Lisa, but if you enjoy things about paintings you may enjoy this book. My favourite character is Mona Lisa because she is like the main character and the book is written in her perspective. I give the book about 2½ stars because it was a fun book but not that interesting. I recommend this book for 12 – 18 year olds. Young children may not get this book because it’s very complicated and I know this because I had to re-read the first few pages about 3 times. In conclusion, I didn’t really enjoy this book much but some people may enjoy it.

Unnamed reviewer’s review
My book was a novel about the original Mona Lisa. Most of it was based on true facts, but there were clearly some parts that had been made up.

My favourite character in the book was Mona Lisa and she was the main character. The story focused on her and told her life story. It tells you about from when she was once young with romantic dreams to when she was older with children.

My least favourite character in the book was Michelangelo. In the book he came across and a bit unpleasant, very selfish, and thought a lot about himself. He was also jealous of another artist (Leonardo) who had returned to Florence (where the book was set).

I learnt a lot from the book about marriage in the past and the horrible fact that girls had no choice in who their husband would be. Also I learnt there were huge differences to life depending on whether you were rich or poor.

I found it really interesting that the book was set in the 1500 and 1600s because life was so different, especially for young girls. The fact that they were getting married at age 15 and having babies at 16 was so different to today.

The plot was a combination of serious, thought-provoking, and romantic ideas.

What stood out the most was the fact that richer families would send their new-born babies away for a year to live in the country with a wet nurse. This surprised me the most because the mum would not see her child until they were one-year-old!

I would definitely recommend this book because it has all the real facts mixed with a great story told really well.

I really enjoyed the book and how the author wrote it, it was so detailed that I thought I was there. I found Mona Lisa (or Lisa) very interesting since the book was based about her; the style the author wrote in made the book sound like it was an autobiography that Mona Lisa wrote. What made this moment in time so important is because back then, many of the people who were poor started an uprising against the rich and how girls at the age of 15 were married to men double their age. The book sort of taught Mona Lisa a lesson how sometimes life might not go the way you think but it ends up leaving you smiling. I would definitely recommend this book to one of my friends.

Emily’s review
I really enjoyed reading this book and understood it well. I liked the character of Leonardo because he was always kind to Lisa and inspired her. I learnt how tough life was for girls in the past and how little input they had in their own life. I like how it was set in a time where women were not classified as important but the main character was a female. I found the plot very thought-provoking. The thing that most stands out from the book is that I understood the characters so well it felt more like an autobiography. I would recommend this book to other pupils because it was a short, but thought-provoking read.

Sadie’s review
I really liked Smile because it was different to any book I've read before. It was quite short and easy to read but also interesting and detailed. There was lots of information about the time it was set and was very realistic. The plot was interesting and uplifting and I really liked the character Lisa because she is honest and kind. I like the fact that it was based on real life because it made it realistic. I would recommend this book and read it again.

Star rating: 4

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