Visconti's account, based on contemporary sources, is lively and anecdotal. But Landmann's oil paintings make the book a standout: With their quirky, stylized figures, humorous details and rich colors (notably the deep cobalt blue and lavish gold ornamentation), they suggest a medieval manuscript illuminated by Dali. — Elizabeth Ward
Visconte and Landmann, an Italian team whose works include The Genius of Leonardo, train an almost otherworldly eye upon the late-12th/early-13th-century saints Clare and Francis of Assisi in a joint biography heavily weighted toward Francis. Landmann's paintings dominate the spreads. Highly stylized, they will either fascinate or deter readers; few will have neutral reactions. The figures are elongated, their skin bronze in some spreads and green in others, their features severely sculpted and their overlarge heads unnaturally tilted toward the sky. Flat picture planes, groupings of figures and lavish use of gold recall sacred art of the period just prior to that in which Giotto immortalized Francis. Meanwhile, the occasional blue-faced angels and a landscape more like a haunted desert than like Umbria confer a strictly contemporary feel. The text includes most of the familiar facts about Francis's spiritual growth (the youth leaves his father's wealth and founds an order of mendicants) and relays the legends about his preaching to the birds and taming the wolf of Gubbio. Visconti adds less celebrated items, too, e.g., that Francis created the first live Nativity scene. Clare enters the story chiefly where she intersects with Francis, and girls in particular may wish to hear more about her, or to know why Francis gets to travel freely while he has Clare enter a convent, "to live [there] forever, withdrawn from the world." Two contrasting translations of Francis's "Canticle of Brother Sun" finish the volume. Ages 5-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Back in Assisi in 1200, two young people from wealthy families were about to change their lives in a way that would lead them to sainthood as they affected all they met. Clare has already begun giving bread to the poor. Francis feels that he must do more. He decides to give up everything he owns to serve God. Although some scoff, others join Francis in his poverty and good works. Clare soon decides to change her life as well, and is helped to start a convent. As she withdraws, Francis travels out into the world, spreading his message of love and peace to both people and animals, for to him, all nature is brother and sister. The text is lengthy but simple and direct, summarizing the lives of these two saints. The illustrations are powerful in impact, suggesting medieval paintings with their flat perspective, elongated figures, use of gold, halos, etc. The pictures, varying in size from quite small to full and double pages, depict the events described in the text in this mystical, emotional style that is both decorative and effectively narrative. There is a useful time line illustrated with miniatures, as well as translations of Francis's "The Canticle of Brother Sun" from both the original Italian and the United States Catholic Conference. 2004, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Ages 6 to 10.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-While many have heard the legends associated with Saint Francis, few know the second saint from Assisi-Clare. Both were born to noble families and exhibited sensitivity to those less fortunate, even in their youth. Both ultimately rejected their families' wealth and founded religious orders known for humility, generosity, and devout faith. This book details what is known about their early and mature years, as well as their relationship with one another. Landmann's paintings recall the nonlinear perspective, figural style, and narrative frescoes of the 14th-century artist Giotto. She alternates between multiple panels on a page to lavish spreads. Gilt highlights add a richness to the scenes. Initial pages present a pair of illustrated time lines, comprising significant moments in the saints' lives. The closing offers two translations of Francis's "Canticle of Brother Sun." To extend children's enjoyment of stories about Francis and to help them understand the legacy introduced in this artful picture-book biography, share Margaret Mayo's Brother Sun, Sister Moon (Little, Brown, 2000) and Frances Ward Weller's The Day the Animals Came (Philomel, 2003) with them.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The 13th-century Italian saints Francis and Clare of Assisi continue to inspire: Francis with his love for all creatures and Clare, who saw visions on her windows, as a possible patron saint of the Internet. Visconte weaves their stories lightly together, as they were in life. Francis was a rich man's son who dreamed of glory and found it by giving away his wealth and caring for the very birds of the air; Clare was a noblewoman who fed the poor and cured the sick. Francis led Clare to her vocation and Clare nursed him through his final illness. Visconte tells a complicated story gracefully, allowing the longing for the divine into the tale. Landmann's illustrations take inspiration freely from Giotto, from the Siennese school, and from Byzantium. Her use of flat space, lapis and gold, and a powerful modern sense of pattern create the spiritual milieu in which this story of belief and devotion can be understood. While not for very young children, middle-graders will be able to grasp sanctity so clearly delineated. (Picture book/biography. 8-12)