© 2006 by Meghan McCarthy
In Paris, France the famous Mona Lisa is stolen from the Louvre. Meanwhile, across the ocean a young boy named Jack is awakened by what appears to be a radio with wings. It commands him to “steal back the Mona Lisa!” A bewildered Jack discovers that the closet, instead of containing his clothes, is full of trench coats, fedoras and brown suits. This ordinary boy has been transformed into a special agent. While his parents sleep, he climbs out the window and rappels down the side of his house. Thus begins Jack’s three step mission: 1. fly across the Atlantic Ocean; 2. seize the Mona Lisa from the thieves and 3. return the painting to its rightful place at the Louvre.
The crooks’ plan is not to sell the painting. No their intentions are much more devious. They will deface the Mona Lisa by drawing a goofy mustache on her.
The crooks attempt to thwart Jack but Jack foils them at every turn. When he is being tailed en route to the airport, he uses his special hat to release slippery oil that causes the pursuing car to swerve off the road. When Jack boards the private plane, the pilot is a bad guy and Jack leaps off the plane, using his insta-blimp cord to inflate his jacket and float to the ground.
Unfortunately, when Jack goes to a restaurant, his beverage is poisoned. He is kidnapped and tied up. Left to dangle over the crooks’ boat in shark infested waters, Jack tries all of his gadgets to aide his escape. His insta-blimp cord, laser light and oily hat button all malfunction.
He then tries his, yet unused, special - agent watch. A pair of scissors emerge and allow Jack to free himself at last. Jack arrives where the painting is being held, not a moment too soon. One of the thieves has a permanent marker, and his hand is poised to deface the Mona Lisa. Jack uses his handy special- agent watch again, this time to lasso the culprits.
Under cover of darkness, a very stealthy Jack travels to France and completes his mission: he returns the Mona Lisa to it’s rightful place!
“Using secret methods too treacherous to mention,” Jack arrives back home and you assume that it was all a dream, but was it? Read Steal Back the Mona Lisa! and take a look at Jack and his teddy bear in bed on the last double page spread and decide for yourself.
Steal Back the Mona Lisa! is a comical story of adventure and intrigue. The expressions on the face of the Mona Lisa and the other famous paintings are hilarious. Depending on the scene, the Mona Lisa looks upset, aghast or relieved. The gadgets in the book are super cool. What kid does not dream of being a spy and possessing gadgets to help them escape danger and to save the day. The first time I borrowed Steal Back the Mona Lisa! from the library, my son interrupted me halfway through and said, “I don’t ever want to return this book.” I agreed with him, so I bought it. I hope that McCarthy writes a sequel. We would be thrilled to read another adventure with Special Agent Jack.
Art Dog by Thacher Hurd in which the “Mona Woofa” is stolen, would make a great pairing for a double dose of art adventure at storytime.