Leonardo, The Beautiful Dreamer

Leonardo, The Beautiful Dreamer

by Robert Byrd

Famous in his time as a painter, prankster, and philosopher, Leonardo da Vinci was also a musician, sculptor, and engineer for dukes, popes, and kings. What remains of his work-from futuristic designs and scientific inquiry to artwork of ethereal beauty-reveals the ambitious, unpredictable brilliance of a visionary, and a timeless dreamer.

Robert Byrd celebrates

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Famous in his time as a painter, prankster, and philosopher, Leonardo da Vinci was also a musician, sculptor, and engineer for dukes, popes, and kings. What remains of his work-from futuristic designs and scientific inquiry to artwork of ethereal beauty-reveals the ambitious, unpredictable brilliance of a visionary, and a timeless dreamer.

Robert Byrd celebrates this passionate, playful genius in a glowing picture book replete with the richness and imagination of Leonardo's own notebooks. Twenty lavish spreads, including side drawings, supplemental texts, and quotes from Leonardo's writings, highlight distinct periods and make the master's art, jokes, explorations, and inventions wonderfully vivid and accessible. A striking tribute to an irrepressible mind and to the potential within all who are curious.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Byrd uses a handsome cartoon style and a riot of color, a choice that has several results. First, it emphasizes Leonardo's enthusiasm and humor: he was a joker, a storyteller and a designer of ephemeral entertainments. Second, the style estranges the reader from Leonardo's time period. Leonardo faced specific challenges; for example, because he was born out of wedlock, he could not study at a university. He chased and served patrons, including a pope, a king, a duke and a warlord … Refreshingly, Byrd rejects the modern impulse to emphasize the difficulty and ambiguities of such a life. His focus, reinforced by the illustrations, is on the thrill of questioning, making and thinking. His book exudes an energy that mimics Leonardo's own restless creativity. — Daria Donnelly
The Washington Post
Robert Byrd's beautiful picture book recreates Leonardo's life and intellectual preoccupations in the manner of the notebooks -- as a brilliant hodgepodge of text, quotations, drawings, paintings and fascinating asides. — Elizabeth Ward
Publishers Weekly
Byrd (Finn McCoul and His Fearless Wife) notes that the French king Francis I once said he did not believe "that any other mind had ever been born into the world who knew so much as Leonardo." Few could disagree after reading this staggeringly thorough-and eminently readable-picture-book compendium of Leonardo da Vinci's prescient insights and inventions. Strategically organized, illustrated with intricately informative art, Byrd's titled spreads-such as "The Smiling Lady" (about the Mona Lisa) and "Muscle and Marvelous Machines"-provide self-contained, almost encyclopedic coverage of Leonardo's life and work. Although the main narrative runs long, sidebars packed with well-chosen anecdotes, quotations and small panel illustrations should hold those with shorter attention spans. Byrd explains Leonardo's theories clearly and simply, while also revealing the man behind them. Readers will enjoy hints of Leonardo's roguishness: he described Michelangelo's sculptures as "bags of nuts" and he would inflate a sheep's intestine with a bellows "until it filled the room like a giant balloon and flattened people against the walls." The skillful use of color schemes, patterned borders and typefaces tames the flow of ideas, and vigorous, lighthearted ink-and-watercolor illustrations both reflect Leonardo's vitality and intelligently explicate his countless inventions. Whether readers absorb this handsomely oversize book from cover to cover or a just few sidebars at a time, they will almost certainly find exquisite inspiration. Ages 7-10. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
From a very early age, Leonardo da Vinci learned by observing things around him. He taught himself how to swim by watching the frogs in the pools and streams near the village were he grew up. By asking himself lots of questions, by seeking the answers, and by always wanting to learn and to discover, Leonardo became one of the world's most extraordinarily brilliant, understanding and gifted people. There seems to be very little that Leonardo da Vinci did not study or write about, that he did not question or wonder at. He created paintings and statutes, designed buildings, invented machines, dissected, studied and drew human and animal bodies, and told delightful and entertaining stories. Perhaps best of all is that he never stopped wondering and questioning. He did not seem to think that one grew too old to learn something new. The author has conveyed his own admiration and respect for da Vinci, and in turn, shows us the genius that lay at the heart of the great man. In what must have been a monumental task, he sifted through an enormous amount of material, and took from it descriptions of certain events in Leonardo's life which best illustrated the great man's exceptional personality and remarkable intelligence. We are given a fully rounded and complex picture of Leonardo the boy, the man, the artist and the inventor, and also are given an in-depth and colorful picture of what Leonardo's world must have been like during his lifetime. In addition to the text itself, Robert Byrd's incredibly detailed and very beautiful illustrations provide a wealth of information in themselves. The illustrations are often annotated and throughout the book the reader will find Leonardo's own words inquotations. Robert Byrd has truly honored Leonardo da Vinci through his labors. At the back of the book the reader will find an author's note, a timeline, and a bibliography. 2003, Dutton Children's Books, Ages 8 up.
— Marya Jansen-Gruber
School Library Journal
Gr 3-8-Liberal quotes from this enigmatic genius's notebooks highlight his insatiable curiosity and extraordinary powers of observation. Detailed ink-and-watercolor artwork illustrates da Vinci's life, times, and artistic and scientific endeavors. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
As thorough an exploration of Leonardo's achievements as can be wrought in picture-book format, this offering takes every opportunity to give the original Renaissance Man his own voice. From endpapers that reproduce Leonardo's notes in a typeface inspired by his script to frequent quotations from same, the text works to efface the time and space that separate reader from subject. Pages are crowded with vibrant line-and-watercolor, often cartoony, vignettes separated by tiny patterned borders. In this way is the narrative of Leonardo's life advanced side-by-side with smaller explorations of his many projects. The effect mimics that of Leonardo's cluttered notebooks, where notes, drawings, and shopping lists fought for space on the page; the major difference is that the pages of this work by and large tackle their subject's many projects thematically, one spread devoted to his horse, another devoted to his efforts at flight, etc. Byrd's presentation is above all collegial, consistently working to inspire readers rather than to awe them. His twin regards for subject and reader make this offering a winner. (author's note, timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-10)

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 12.32(h) x 0.32(d)
1120L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

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