Bimba Landmann's richly colored iconographic illustrations both illuminate this stunning life of Leonardo and create an air of mystery around this far-reaching genius. At once instructive and entertaining, the story is told by ten-year-old Giacomo, who comes to respect, love, and learn from Leonardo, his wise and eccentric master. The many facets of this towering genius of Renaissance Italy are explored in a book that will inspire everyone to search for their own greatness ...
Bimba Landmann's richly colored iconographic illustrations both illuminate this stunning life of Leonardo and create an air of mystery around this far-reaching genius. At once instructive and entertaining, the story is told by ten-year-old Giacomo, who comes to respect, love, and learn from Leonardo, his wise and eccentric master. The many facets of this towering genius of Renaissance Italy are explored in a book that will inspire everyone to search for their own greatness within.
Intelligent as its text may be, this apprentice's-eye view of Leonardo da Vinci is overshadowed by the illustrations. The picture-book biography offers a glimpse of the master's later years, including his paintings of the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Visconti incorporates comments from Leonardo's notebooks as he imagines exchanges between the great artist and an inquisitive but not always dependable young servant. Landmann, whose artwork was ideally matched to A Boy Named Giotto, here seems stylistically at odds with her subject. Her eerily elongated figures, with their mask-like Byzantine faces slanting down upon their necks, take on perpetually mournful postures. The greenish skin tones, the arid landscapes and the forceful stillness of the compositions contribute to a generally morbid air that the illustrator's splashes of silver ink do little to dispel. Landmann's renderings of Leonardo's sketches and of his Mona Lisa are swift gestures, a shorthand that implies the audience's foreknowledge. Readers who want to learn the details of the Italian Renaissance leader's life, scientific explorations and artwork would do better with Diane Stanley's Leonardo da Vinci. Ages 7-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
- Children's Literature
"I do it to preserve nature's most precious gift--and that gift is our freedom" are words from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci to explain why he designed weapons although he hated war. This compelling, illustrated biography of an incredible genius is recounted through the voice of his young assistant Giacomo. Not only was Leonardo a sensitive human being, but he was also an artist, designer, musician, mapmaker, scientist, and an inspiration for generations of people. Giacomo tells of the painting of the Mona Lisa and how the great master taught others to become painters. He accompanies Leonardo to the market where the compassionate artist bought all the caged birds just to set them free. And when Leonard traveled to the French court, his assistant was just as entranced as the others to see the golden lion created by the master. The lion walked and as it did, lilies fell from its stomach. Many drawings and quotations from Leonardo's notebooks accompany the engrossing text. The mysterious paintings, reminiscent of the muted palette and imagery of the artist Giorgio de Chirico, are magnificent! With multiple vanishing points, unique perspectives, and a touch of glowing silver they are spellbinding! What a wonderful way to learn about an incredible man! 2000, Barefoot Books, Ages 6 up, $16.99. Reviewer: Laura Hummel—Children's Literature
School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-This picture-book biography offers a personal vision of the famous artist, engineer, inventor, and musician from Vinci as described through the voice of his mischievous, 10-year-old apprentice, Giacomo. While the boy's feelings are a fabrication, the events (including his lifelong relationship to Leonardo) are historically accurate. Quotes from the artist's journals are incorporated into the story and appear in italics. However, it is Landmann's stylized paintings that immediately confront readers with a sense of Leonardo's eccentricities and personality. The figures have elongated features and highly modeled faces with pensive expressions. The settings are dreamlike with curving perspectival lines. The objects and people are all influenced by the predominant color of the page, by turns bluish, golden, or peach. In addition, a series of Leonardo's original sketches opens and concludes the book and his drawings appear throughout. This emotive work would prove a fascinating contrast to Diane Stanley's elegant portrait of the man in Leonardo da Vinci (Morrow, 1996). Janis Herbert's Leonardo da Vinci for Kids (Chicago Review, 1998) provides in-depth information and related activities.-Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
From The Critics
"1490. Giacomo has come to live with me. He is ten years old. He is a liar, a thief, and a greedy brute." So wrote one of the most inventive and accomplished men in history—Leonardo da Vinci. Who better than to tell about the great inventor, scientist, map-maker, painter, and thinker than that little liar and thief, Giacomo, who follows him everywhere?The narrative, in this handsomely illustrated book, begins when Giacomo gets in trouble by touching models of flying machines patterned after bird wings. The boy is intrigued by his master's amazing activities and decides to be good so that he will not be sent away. Leonardo—who plays the harp, mirror writes, is ambidextrous, and who designs machines to fly and walk on water—views the child as a nuisance. "He eats as much as two boys and causes as much trouble as four." The young apprentice follows Leonardo to the marketplace where they buy up all the caged birds so they can be set free. He watches him paint Mona Lisa, who is entertained by musicians and clowns while she poses. Giacomo is with Leonardo when the Last Supper is painted in tempera on the wall of a friars' dining room at Santa Maria delle Grazie, and goes with him to France when beckoned by the king. Landmann's illustrations are evocative of the Medieval Period, which ended only fifty-two years before Leonardo's birth. The highly stylized illustrations have a subdued, solemn, flat quality, with a hint of illumination, contrasting with the Renaissance man's own style of art and his brilliant, futuristic mind. Four book pages show illustrations from Leonardo's notebooks, chronicling his incredible range of interests, abilities, and studies. Landmann is an award-winning illustrator whose A Boy Named Giotto, was selected as one of the Smithsonian's Notable Books for Children in 1999. In addition to incorporating some of Leonardo's famous artwork into the illustrations, the text quotes small passages from his notebooks. While assiduously faithful to its time period and focused on the genius of Leonardo, the story ends with a nice modern touch that should make young readers smile. As Giacomo and Leonardo look at the stars one night, the great teacher expounds on life, time, and questions such as "how the moon stays up there." Giacomo muses, "And one day men will really be able to fly. Perhaps they will be able to go and see what's up there, on the moon."
Fact and fiction blur in a handsome, imported hybrid. Visconti presents an admirable imagining of Leonardo's world. He captures his audience with a well-researched and authentic-feeling fictionalized account of Giacomo, a young apprentice to the Master. To add greater immediacy and build greater interest, he makes liberal use of well-chosen and telling quotes from Leonardo's own notebooks. His artistic collaborator, the well-received Italian illustrator Landmann (Paolo Guarnieri's A Boy Named Giotto, 1999) adds further interest by incorporating her own renderings of images directly drawn from the notebooks as well as from the Master's most familiar paintings and studies. The slightly oversized book's production is lavish with full-page illustrations facing the text, punctuated with several two-page spreads (without text), and highlighted with many spot-art renderings of Leonardo's notebook drawings. The dramatic landscapes and angular figures in Landmann's signature, highly stylized, full-color (with silver) illustrations are detailed and involving. Though collections with especially heavy demand for arts, science, or history curriculum support focusing on Renaissance artists will certainly want to add this, Diane Stanley's impressive and rich Leonardo Da Vinci (1996) will remain the gold standard. (Picture book. 7+)