The Second Mrs. Gioconda

by E. L. Konigsburg
138 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Nienna

Fun read, but poor morals.


Salai is the ten year-old-apprentice of Leonardo da Vinci with no talent, but great cleverness. As the years pass, Salai helps his master, befriends the duchess, and eventually commissions the Mona Lisa.


The main character is a liar, thief, and glutton, yet he is portrayed as very likable and his faults are actually shown as helpful. He takes pleasure in teasing and making fools of those people he does not like. He is loyal, however, and makes sure to support his sister.

Spiritual Content

A few references to the church, monks, God, the devil, heaven, etc. There is some superstition. Salai uses the word d**n a coupe of times.


In the beginning there is mention that the main character will be hanged if he continues his thieving ways. A main character dies.

Drug and Alcohol Content


Sexual Content

The duke of Milan has at least one mistress and possibly another. His wife is wed to him at the age of sixteen.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Leonardo and Salai visit the duke while he is taking a bath and he gets out in front of them. Salai uses the word "pee" once in reference to horses. He vomits all over a couple of men.


Though an interesting take on the origin of the Mona Lisa, I cannot recommend the book as anything but an enjoyable read. The book very strongly impresses one's mind with the idea that such things as lying and stealing are acceptable and possibly even admirable. Also, the statements it makes about the characters and facts seem to have little historical foundation.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 2
Written for Age: 11-12

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