Review: How to Steal the Mona Lisa

Written by Bethany Walker
Illustrated by Jack Noel
Published by Scholastic

How to Steal the Mona Lisa is a fantastically fun art-heist adventure that is sure to bring giggles galore as the mystery of the lost Mona Lisa unfolds in a series of emails, blogs and news reports.

Mia and her best friend Jake are protesting outside the local opticians as Jake is convinced that the glasses being sold there have mind-control powers.  Mia stamps on her glasses leading not only to broken glasses but to a broken friendship as she feels her conspiracy theorist friend gets her in too much trouble!  Can their friendship be healed as they both join the local secondary school, Colpepper Hall School?

On her first day at her new school, budding artist Mia discovers the terrible news that the art department has been shut down due to both the demolition of the wing it was housed in, and lack of funding.  In other art-related news, the Royal Family have offered a £25 million reward for the recovery of a stolen painting that has been missing for 200 years:  the lost Mona Lisa

There have been rumours that it has been hidden in the crypt at Colpepper Hall School. Cue mayhem, mischief and hilarity as – ahem- a criminal mastermind – ahem – is intent on tracking down the missing masterpiece, and taking the reward.  Has the School been infiltrated by criminals?  Is Mr Scales, the Headteacher, a lizard creature in disguise? Could Mia’s parents be notorious art thieves? Or, are these all just the wild imaginings of a boy dreaming up conspiracy theories? 

Whilst Mia is determined to save the art department by gaining 100, 000 signatures on her petition and taking it to Parliament, Jake is gathering followers on his Blog with his conspiracy theories, but could there be a spark of truth in them?  Can these former friends solve the mystery by healing their friendship and working together?

This is a hilarious, fast-paced mystery written in a series of emails between Mia and her Granny; in Blogs written by Jake; and in online news reports, notes and coded messages.  I really liked getting to know Mia through her emails.  She is friendly, chatty and funny, and there is also a real innocence in what she doesn’t notice as she chats to her Granny who is a real globetrotter!  Her parents are obsessed with the family pet, Seabert, so when they suddenly begin to show an interest in Mia’s art, and offer to take her to art galleries, she jumps at the chance cuing some laugh-out-loud museum antics. 

Whilst this story is brilliantly funny, it also has a more serious message around the need to protect the arts in schools, something that Mia really takes to heart in the story.  Visiting the various real-life National Galleries through the story gave a wonderful insight into some of the activities offered by art museums such as sleepovers and workshops.

This has such an appealing layout with the different media forms, fonts and lettering styles, ‘hidden’ words and so many brilliantly expressive illustrations sprinkled throughout.

A sparkling treat of an art-and-fun-filled mystery for readers of 8+.

Thank you to Harriet Dunlea and Scholastic for an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

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