Cover image for Daughter of Venice
Daughter of Venice
Napoli, Donna Jo, 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
274 pages ; 22 cm
Frustrated with the restrictions her gender imposes on her life, fourteen-year-old Donata, disguised as a boy, sneaks out of her noble family's house to roam the streets of late sixteenth-century Venice and then must confront the repercussions of her actions.
Reading Level:
720 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.9 10.0 58678.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 4.9 16 Quiz: 34335 Guided reading level: T.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



In 1592, Donata is a noble girl living in a palazzo on the Grand Canal. Girls of her class receive no education and rarely leave the palazzo. In a noble family, only one daughter and one son will be allowed to marry; Donata, like all younger daughters, will be sent to a convent. Donata longs to be tutored like her brothers and to see the Venice she has glimpsed only on the map. What is the world beyond her balcony, beyond what she sees when she glides, veiled, in a gondola down the canal? She dresses as a boy and escapes the palazzo on the Grand Canal to see the world before she is shut away, and to try to find a way to escape her fate. Donata risks everything; she changes her life, and her family's life, forever when she walks through the door and encounters a Venice she never knew existed. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Notes

Donna Jo Napoli was born on February 28, 1948. She received a B.A. in mathematics, an M.A. in Italian literature, and a Ph.D. in general and romance linguistics from Harvard University. She has taught on the university level since 1970, is widely published in scholarly journals, and has received numerous grants and fellowships in the area of linguistics.

In the area of linguistics, she has authored five books, co-authored six books, edited one book, and co-edited five books. She is also a published poet and co-editor of four volumes of poetry. Her first middle grade novel, Soccer Shock, was published in 1991. Her other novels include the Zel, Beast, The Wager, Lights on the Nile, Skin, Storm, Hidden, and Dark Shimmer. She is also the author of several picture books including Flamingo Dream, The Wishing Club: A Story About Fractions, Corkscrew Counts: A Story About Multiplication, The Crossing, A Single Pearl, and Hands and Hearts. She has received several awards including the New Jersey Reading Association's M. Jerry Weiss Book Award for The Prince of the Pond and the Golden Kite Award for Stones in Water.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-10. In 1592, Donata Mocenigo enjoys a privileged life as a daughter in a large, noble Venetian family, but she's acutely aware of the limited roles for women in society. Buzzing with curiosity, she shuns propriety and ventures, disguised and alone, into the city--an act that proves more complicated and dangerous than anticipated as well as profoundly rewarding. Moved by all she's seen and learned, she changes her future by convincing her father to educate her. Historical fiction fans will love the details, though readers expecting action may find themselves bogged down in descriptions of the government and culture, and Donata's attempt to avoid an unwanted betrothal is drawn out a bit too long. But Napoli beautifully evokes Donata's city, time period, family, and most of all character, using thoughtful details that ask larger questions about family and social responsibility that will resonate with many teens. An author's note cites extensive research, including mention of the woman who inspired the story. --Gillian Engberg

Publisher's Weekly Review

A 14-year-old girl in the late 16th century wants to see Venice and receive the same education as her brothers. So she disguises herself as a boy and leads readers on a tour of historical Venice and its complex society and government. Ages 12-up. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-10-As the daughter of a Venetian nobleman in 1592, 14-year-old Donata lives a sheltered and prescribed life. According to custom, her oldest sister will marry, either she or her identical twin Laura will stay home as the maiden aunt to care for her brother's children, and the other will go to a convent with their younger sisters. The girls spend their days doing chores, winding yarn onto giant bobbins for the family's wool trade, studying music, or going to parties where their oldest sister is examined as a marriage prospect. All that changes the day Donata dons boy's clothing and goes exploring outside the walls of the family's palazzo. Evading a bully, she ends up in the Jewish ghetto where she befriends a young man, No, who makes her question the privileges of her class, and at the same time she gains permission from her father to start studying with her brothers' tutor. When her parents announce a surprise betrothal that will curtail her studies and leave Laura convent-bound, Donata takes an action that drastically affects the whole family. While a current trend in historical fiction presents a girl with modern sensibilities chafing under the strict rules of her time, nothing about Donata seems forced. Even when acting rebelliously, her actions and thoughts feel authentic to the time and world that Napoli portrays. Even Donata's love for No is tempered by the knowledge that she could never convert to Judaism. Napoli's many fans will not be disappointed by this engrossing and exotic novel.-Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One MORNING LIGHT A big fruit boat passes, rocking our gondola hard. Paolina tumbles against me with a laugh. I put my arm around her waist and hug her. Paolina squirms free. "It's too hot, Donata." She pulls on one of my ringlets and laughs again. Yes, it's hot, but it's a wonderful morning. The Canal Grande is busy. That's nothing new to us. From our bedchamber balcony my sisters and I watch the daily activity. Our palazzo stands on the Canal Grande and our rooms are three flights up, so we have a perfect view. But down here in the gondola, with the noise from the boats, and the smell of the sea, and the glare of the sun on the water, not even the thin gauze of my veil can mute the bold lines of this delightful chaos. Our Venice, called La Serenissima, "The Most Serene," is frenzied today. My feet start to tap in excitement, but, of course, they can't, because of my shoes. Whenever I go on an outing, I wear these shoes. They have wooden bottoms thicker than the width of my palm; I have to practice before venturing out, or I'll fall. And even then, I go at Uncle Umberto's pace--a blind man's pace. I look in envy at Paolina's zoccoli, her sandals with thin wooden bottoms. Paolina is only nine and she hasn't been subjected to high shoes and tight corsets yet. "Can I take my shoes off, Mother? Just for the boat ride, I mean." "Of course not, Donata." "But I hate these shoes. They keep me from doing what I want." "That's exactly why you should wear them." Mother reaches across Paolina's lap and gives a little yank to my wide skirt so that it lies flat over my lap. "High shoes make sure young ladies behave properly." "Because we're afraid of falling? But you always say proper behavior comes from proper thoughts." "Keep your shoes on, Donata. And don't make remarks like that when we arrive." Mother sits tall herself. "We're almost there now. Be perfect ladies, all of you." Laura, my twin, sits facing me, with our big sister Andriana beside her. Laura stretches out her right foot so that her shoe tip clunks against mine. She's grinning under the white veil that hides her face, I'm sure of that. The very idea of my being a perfect lady is absurd. I grin back, though, of course, Laura cannot see my face, either. Andriana's hands are in her lap, the fingers of one squeezed in the other so hard that her knuckles stand out like white beads. Mother's words make her throw her shoulders back and stretch her neck long. Underneath Andriana's veil, she is far from laughter; I bet her lips are pressed together hard. Mother grew up the daughter of a wealthy artisan--a citizen, not a noble. There are three kinds of Venetians: plain people, who cannot vote and whose needs and rights must be protected by the nobles; citizens, who can vote but not hold office; and nobles. Mother was lucky to marry into Father's noble family. We all know that, but Andriana is the one who worries about it. She worries that our questionable breeding casts doubt on her worthiness as a bride. But she needn't. Andriana is sixteen, two years older than Laura and I. She's ready for a husband. And she'll get one easily. The oldest daughter in any noble family marries, even if she's ugly. And Andriana, with her wide-set, hazel eyes and delicate, pointed chin, is stunning. The mothers at the garden party today will all want her as a daughter-in-law. If Andriana is lucky, she'll marry someone young and handsome. How I wish that for her. There are too many old widowers around looking for brides. The breath of decrepit Messer Corner, his exaggerated limp, the gray hair from his ears pollute my thoughts. That can't happen to Andriana. Father would never choose poorly for her, no matter how rich a suitor was. Andriana will marry someone vigorous, most certainly. She will have children. Children. The youngest in our family is Giovanni--already three years old. There are twelve of us: Francesco, who is twenty-two; Piero, twenty; Antonio, seventeen; Andriana, sixteen; Vincenzo, fifteen; Laura and I, fourteen; Paolina, nine; Bortolo, six; Nicola, five; Maria, four; and Giovanni, three. Giovanni is Mother's last child. That's what Mother says, at least. Father likes to say, "Things happen," and he winks. But I'm old enough to understand that Mother is probably right about this. Giovanni is our only brother who still sleeps on the same floor of the house as the girls, and I adore him. We all do. He'll probably move down to the small boys' floor soon. I miss having a baby in the house. My heart squeezes. I want to take Laura's hand, but she's sitting too far from me. Laura and I have to be careful today--as careful as we can. The perfect ladies Mother wants us to be. For we, too, hope to marry someday. Both of us. We've never voiced that hope to anyone else--it's a whisper between us in the dark. We know very well that if we hadn't been born twins, one of us would be the third sister and unmarriageable, for a nobleman is lucky to marry off one daughter and blessed to marry off two--he cannot hope to marry off more than two. But twins should be a special case--it's impossible to think of one of us marrying but not the other. I place my feet primly together and sit up tall like Mother and Andriana. The gondola veers into a side canal and the water is instantly calm and quiet. And smelly. This small canal is shallower than most, so the filth people throw into it can stink for days before it's finally washed out to the open waters of the lagoon. Hot weather brings the most foul odors. The gondoliere in the front leaps onto the step and offers his hand to us, while the gondoliere in the back steadies the boat against the docking pole. I stand and hold on to one of the supports of the tent we've been riding under in the center of the gondola. Sweat rolls down my thigh. It's hot for late spring. I'd like to lift my skirts high and let a breeze tickle my bottom. But that's exactly the sort of behavior I must avoid today. I raise my skirts only high enough to allow me to step out of the boat. From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.