From School Library Journal
Grade 4–8—Through the eyes of a fictional apprentice, the life and work of the master artist is revealed in bits and pieces. Using a diary, the 10-year-old apprentice describes day-to-day activities in the studio, from grinding pigments to accompanying the master to the palace. Glimpses of encounters with art patrons, revelations about Leonardo's specific interest in human and animal anatomy, and his work on war machines are all described. The diary portion is an engaging read, blending fact and fiction. The second half of the book focuses on life during the Renaissance, primarily in Italy, and goes into more depth about Leonardo's life and his work both as an artist and an inventor. This section provides the details that report writers will be looking for. This highly visual book includes reproductions of Leonardo's drawings and paintings and photographs from around Italy, and the journal portion is peppered with original full-color artwork depicting scenes from the apprentice's narrative. The design of the oversize book has the vague feel of the "ology" series without all the flaps, pull-outs, etc. Booktalk this title with Jean Fritz's Leonardo's Horse
(Putnam, 2001) to offer up a fun glimpse into the life of one of the world's great artists.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
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Augarde niftily blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction with this illustrated account of an imagined apprentice to Leonardo da Vinci. At age 10, Paulo is sent to live and work with the master artist, inventor, and engineer in Milan, where he is one of many discepoli (gofers) hoping to one day become a garzone (apprentice). In diary entries, Paulo tells of life in da Vinci’s studio, mixing pigments, studying new artistic techniques, and even accompanying the great man on visits to his patron, Ludovico Sforza. Augarde offers readers a fascinating glimpse of da Vinci at the height of his inventive prowess (spurred on by the military demands of Sforza) as well as his creative apex (at work on The Last Supper), that’s well supported by germane details of life in 1490s Italy. Brown’s artwork, peppered with da Vinci’s distinctive designs, adds liveliness and color to the narrative, while thorough yet inviting back matter delves further into both da Vinci’s importance and the Renaissance. Grades 4-6. --Ian Chipman