Children's Literature"Makers of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance," a series exploring the lives of such luminaries as Chaucer, Dante, and Thomas More, follows subjects from childhood through the years of accomplishment to old age. Illustrations are reproductions of contemporary paintings and prints, as well as modern photos of historical sites. Although each volume is written by a different author, a certain similarity of style between them attempts to reconcile a straightforward text in a readable font with complex ideas from periods not familiar to most of its intended readers. This can create an overwhelming parade of names and places (there are no maps), though Koestler-Grack tries conscientiously to make Da Vinci's ideas and techniques as comprehensible as possible in the space allowed. While touching on his accomplishments in painting, sculpture, and music, the author describes Leonardo's apprenticeship to Verrocchio and the establishment of his own studio. Travels and residences in the Italian cities of Florence, Milan, Mantua, Venice, and Rome gave Leonardo scope to pursue his interests in art (his commissions were often abandoned), engineering, anatomy, natural history, and engines of war; lesser known are his designs for elaborate pageants and masquerades. Illustrations are fairly numerous, lending clarity and visual appeal, though color reproductions look faded. Sidebars on Leonardo's notebooks and the possible discovery of his studio in 2005 are especially interesting. Young historians will find the biography a good introduction to this gifted Renaissance man in all his glory and contradictions and, one hopes, will leave them with a desire for further research. 2006, Chelsea House, Ages 10 up.
Barbara L. Talcroft