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Leonardo da Vinci Hardcover – September 27, 1996
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Older children will certainly appreciate the wealth of information in this complete and fascinating biography of Leonardo da Vinci. Illustrated in an Old Masters style, the book follows the life of da Vinci from birth to death and gives a detailed account of his extraordinary achievements, not only in his painting but also as an engineer, scientist, and inventor who is centuries ahead of his time. The treatment of da Vinci's famous notebooks usefully conveys the power of the man's imagination. His practice of writing in a backward script from right to left, requiring a mirror to decipher it, will intrigue children. (The dust jacket bears such lettering on the back, which should immediately prompt a run to the bathroom mirror.) An accomplished and engaging biography for children. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Adding this Renaissance genius to the illustrious lineup of individuals whose lives she and Peter Vennema have chronicled, among them Cleopatra, Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare, Stanley produces her most stunning pictorial biography to date. Drawing from a range of sources, including her subject's extensive notebooks, Stanley's conversational narrative describes Leonardo da Vinci's astoundingly far-reaching and varied achievements. Young readers will come to appreciate both da Vinci's universally renowned accomplishments as a painter and the breadth of his scientific experimentation and research. While her text is thoroughly intriguing, even more impressive is the artistic challenge Stanley takes on and triumphantly meets: her paintings not only portray the period particulars and likenesses of da Vinci, his patrons and colleagues, but successfully incorporate, in seamless collages, miniature reproductions of such celebrated masterpieces as The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. These exquisite reproductions, as well as sepia-toned spot art taken from da Vinci's notebooks, sit uncommonly well within Stanley's own paintings, educating the reader about da Vinci's masterpieces as a natural part of the visual storytelling. A virtuosic work. Ages 7-up.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
Award-winning author and artist Diane Stanley blends wonderful storytelling with vibrant illustrations to provide a wonderful introduction for young people to the original “Renaissance man,’ whose inventions include a submarine, an air-cooling system, “glasses to see the moon large,” and even a flying machine, following his life from birth to death. The book was a 1996 ALA Notable Book, a 1996 Publishers Weekly Best Books Award winner, a 1997 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book for Nonfiction, and a 1997 Orbis Pictus Award winner. One source gives the age range as 4 – 8 years, and another as 7 and up, but the book is a little lengthy for a younger child to read, so older children, say ages 9-12, will likely better appreciate the wealth of information in this fascinating biography. I will add a couple of caveats that parents may want to note. First, it seems that a great deal of emphasis is placed on Leonardo’s having been born illegitimately. Of course, that is a fact of history.
Second, I was a little disturbed by how the author begins. “Leonardo da Vinci lived in exciting times. A thousand years had passed since the Roman Empire fell, a thousand years in which the people of Europe tended their farms, went to war, guided every act by a deep religious faith….Then, at about the time Leonardo was born, things began to change. Faith and tradition gave way to learning and curiosity.” The implication seems to be that faith stands in opposition to learning and curiosity. Yet, she fails to note that some of the examples that she cites of this new spirit of learning and curiosity, such as Christopher Columbus, Johann Gutenberg, Nicolaus Copernicus, and Michelangelo Buonarroti, were all guided by a deep religious faith in what they accomplished. At the same time, it is noted of Leonardo that, “Though he was not a religious man, he wrote that the more he studied the body, the more he was struck by thoughts of God, ‘who creates nothing superfluous or imperfect.’” All in all, it is an interesting book.
3rd graders and up can manage the long text independently. This book presents very complete information, in a very readable way. Here is a sample of the vocabulary: guild, career, abandon, meticulous, composition, linger, panel, three-dimensional, neutral, delicate, tedious, patron, fabulous, intellectual...
Cheerful, optimistic book.
This book is a combination of good artistry and confounding problems. On the one hand, Stanley has drawn beautiful accompanying pictures for each point in Leonardo's life. On the other hand, these pictures sometimes take liberties with the few details of the artist's life we know of. When the text states that Leonardo, "found a loving friend in his young uncle Francesco", the accompanying picture shows the boy piggyback on his uncle. It would be nice if such facts were given appropriate footnotes, but all sources are listed in the end of the book without any references to pages. Also, the aging of Leonardo is a little haphazard. One moment he's a young man writing a letter. The next moment he's bearded and about to slice up a corpse. The Duchy of Milan is described as having black hair and dark skin, but appears to be more of a slightly tan Italian. These are tiny details, but they distract from an otherwise interesting text.
Undoubtedly, the actual drawings and sketches Leonardo made in his lifetime are some of the best parts of this book. It would have been nice if Stanley had included more of them in the story. Leonardo's paintings are nicely presented, but they're usually seen from a distance. At no point do we get a detailed and close look at any art that Leonardo created. Finally, a timeline would have been helpful in this story, but it has not been included.
None of this is to say that Stanley hasn't taken a difficult subject and made an interesting book out of it. The final product is a bit too advanced for those children accustomed to reading picture books, but older kids may shy away from the type of book they would consider "babyish". Open minded children may be the best audience for this piece of non-fiction. For those of you who would like something a little more in depth and interesting, I recommend "Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer". In interesting book that suffers from an array of tiny nagging problems.