Jack and Annie are intent on releasing Merlin from his prison of sorrows. To help them in their quest, they consult with one of the great minds of all time: Leonard da Vinci! A Magic Tree House adventure worth climbing.
Children's Literature - Judy DaPolito
Following a brief introduction by the author and a prologue orienting the reader to the "Merlin Missions" adventures of the "Magic Tree House" books, the time-traveling siblings, Jack and Annie, spot the tree house on their way to school. The young sorcerers, Teddy and Kathleen, tell them they must travel back five hundred years to Florence, Italy, where they will spend the day helping Leonardo da Vinci. In the process, they are to discover the second secret of happiness that will help Merlin overcome his low spirits. Teddy gives them a biography of Leonardo, and Kathleen gives Annie a rhyme that will help them find the answer. She also reminds Jack of the three rules for using the magic Wand of Dianthus, which he always carries with him. Once the tree house lands in Florence, Annie and Jack read a little about Leonardo in the biography before they order the wand to help them find him. After a few near misses, they meet Leonardo in the market and he agrees to let them be his apprentices for a day because he is in a hurry to finish a fresco he is painting in the council hall. Jack and Annie are much impressed by the enormous battle painting, but Leonardo's experiment in drying the wet paint with lighted pots of wood results in heat that melts the paint and ruins the fresco. Deeply upset, the painter rushes off, but Jack and Annie follow him to his house and get him talking about the ideas he has set down in his notebooks. Finding that he desperately wants to fly, they go with him to a hillside where he shows them the flying machine he calls the Great Bird. When he demonstrates it for them, he soars briefly and then crashes. But Annie brings out the Wand of Dianthus and the three of themgrow wings and fly over the city. On their way back to his house, where Leonardo is late for his meeting with Lisa, a young woman whose portrait he is painting, Leonardo tells them he believes the secret of happiness is curiosity. The story's text is followed by a three-page description of Leonardo's life and work, three pages with directions for making paper planes, and three with a word puzzle, the first chapter of a new "Merlin Mission" book, and a page of temporary tattoos. A "Stepping Stone Book." Reviewer: Judy DaPolito
Children's Literature - Della A. Yannuzzi
This thirty-eighth book in the popular "Magic Tree House" series takes Jack and Annie of Frog Creek, Pennsylvania on an historical adventure to Florence, Italy in the early 1500s. Their quest is to help Merlin the magician find happiness again. While in Italy, they spend a day with artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci who helps them find one of the answers to happiness: fame. Although Jack and Annie are not sure this is the correct answer, they spend the day as Leonardo's apprentices and learn a lot about painting and using their imaginations to create art. Jack and Annie also go with Leonardo to the palace of the great counsel and learn how a fresco is painted onto a wall, but a fire breaks out and hampers the project. Leonardo is miserable and in no mood for company, but he invites Jack and Annie into his art studio and tells them that he is always trying new projects and does not always finish them or get them to work. He shows Jack and Annie one such idea, a flying machine that looks like a giant bird. When it crashes, Leonardo says this is more proof that his scientific ideas do not work. Jack and Annie show Leonardo that he can fly with the help of a magic wand they have. They all sprout winds and fly over the city of Florence. Leonardo's faith is renewed as he recaptures the spirit of a bird, and he realizes that curiosity is the secret of happiness. Black-and-white illustrations accompany the text. Reviewer: Della A. Yannuzzi
School Library Journal
Jack and Annie are back for two adventures in Mary Pope Osborne's popular "Magic Tree House" series. In Monday with a Mad Genius (Random, 2007), the youngsters travel to Renaissance Italy where meet artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci who shows them his notebooks filled with ideas for inventions. Jack and Annie learn about painting and using their imaginations, convince the artist not to give up on his inventions, and learn that curiosity is one of the secrets of happiness. In Dark Day in the Deep Sea (Random, 2008), Jack and Annie travel aboard a 19th-century British sailing ship with scientists who are collecting specimens of the world's plants and animals. When a violent storm sweeps the pair overboard, they are rescued by a giant octopus. The children must convince the scientists not to capture the creature for scientific research. These stories provide wonderful lessons in character building. In both stories, the children learn that happiness can be found by following your dreams and showing compassion towards all living creatures. There are numerous opportunities for cross-curricular studies. Team Monday with a unit on inventions, the Renaissance, or art history. Introduce units on oceans or world explorers with Dark Day . The omission of the books' prologue and author's notes on the audio is regrettable. Osborne is a capable narrator, capturing the innocence and wonder of Jack and Annie. An excellent purchase for elementary grade audio collections.-Connie M. Pierce, Falling Water Elementary School, Chattanooga, TN