Uh-Oh, Leonardo!: The Adventures fo Providence Traveler


Meet Providence Traveler. Providence likes to make things. Not just ordinary things like macaroni pictures, but things that have never been made before. So it is not surprising that her hero is Leonardo da Vinci, the great sixteenth-century artist and inventor. One day at the library, when Providence is taking out her favorite book, Leonardo da Vinci: Boy Was He Busy, she finds a scrap of paper covered with interesting designs for what looks like a mechanical mouse with a key coming out of its back. Diligently ...

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Meet Providence Traveler. Providence likes to make things. Not just ordinary things like macaroni pictures, but things that have never been made before. So it is not surprising that her hero is Leonardo da Vinci, the great sixteenth-century artist and inventor. One day at the library, when Providence is taking out her favorite book, Leonardo da Vinci: Boy Was He Busy, she finds a scrap of paper covered with interesting designs for what looks like a mechanical mouse with a key coming out of its back. Diligently she follows the instructions on the paper and builds the intricate mouse. Just as she is putting on the finishing touches, in barge her brother and the meddlesome McMuzzin twins, who turn the key in the mouse's back. Suddenly there is a sound like thunder and a flash of light...and the four find themselves transported to Florence, Italy, during the time when Leonardo was alive. Will Providence get to meet her hero?

Gifted artist and storyteller Robert Sabuda introduces young readers to an extraordinary new character -- Providence Traveler -- whose curiosity and excitement will match their own. Providence leads readers on an exciting adventure, full of fun and fascinating information.

Providence the mouse travels through time to sixteenth-century Florence, Italy, where she shares an adventure with Leonardo da Vinci, the inventor she admires so much.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Where's Topo Gigio when you need him? Young mice run amok in 16th-century Florence in Sabuda's (The Night Before Christmas; Tutankhamun's Gift) idiosyncratic, wordy picture book. When modern-day mouse Providence Traveler visits the local library and discovers a design for a mechanical mouse supposedly drawn by her hero, Leonardo da Vinci, she recreates the invention. But a mishap involving Providence's young brother and the pesky neighbor twins lands all four mice (and the seemingly magical mechanical one Providence has constructed) back in time, to da Vinci's stomping grounds (assuming he and his peers had been mice). A run-in with a corrupt bishop and a wild denouement in the Florence cathedral follow, but not before Providence and pals meet the great da Vinci himself. Unfortunately, the mix of elements-fantasy, slapstick, science, history-results in breathlessly paced mish-mash. Busily designed pages "from" Providence's sketchbook, consisting of panel or spot drawings with such themes as "The Streets of Florence," are inserted periodically; these offer factual observations but disrupt the visual and narrative flow. They also threaten to blur the distinction between Sabuda's inventions and da Vinci's-will readers come away thinking that da Vinci really did build a successful flying machine, as he does here? The bright pencil-and-watercolor artwork has humor and spunk, but fails to make the disparate pieces cohere. An author's note about da Vinci and his time is included. Ages 5-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Providence, a contemporary, anthropomorphic mouse, likes to invent things. Like her hero, Leonardo da Vinci, she always keeps a sketchbook handy—"just in case I have an idea." While in the library, she discovers a dusty piece of paper, which may have been Leonardo's. She immediately follows the directions to create this invention. Inadvertently, the twins from next door get their hands on it, and instantly Providence, her brother Malcolm, and the twins are thrust back in time to 1503. An exciting adventure ensues, as the key to the time-traveling mouse must be retrieved in order to return the gang to their own time. Departing from his usual pop-up genre, Sabuda still creates illustrations full of life and depth. Interspersed throughout are several double page spreads filled with details about 16th century Florence from Providence's (and even Malcolm's) sketchbooks to pore over—such as the streets of Florence, a print shop, and more. Sabuda even deftly manages to include Leonardo's secret technique of writing in mirror image. While the format is not easily categorized—the story is much longer than a typical picture book and also serves as a springboard for all sorts of information about the time period, it will have great appeal for sophisticated younger readers. The combination of time travel and subtle humor, featuring the famous Da Vinci as a character, will definitely encourage curious readers to repeatedly return to this gem of a book. 2002, Atheneum/Simon and Schuster,
— Micki Nevett
School Library Journal
There's more fantasy than fact here, but following four mice flung back to da Vinci's Florence offers readers a peek at Renaissance politics. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sabuda (The Night Before Christmas, not reviewed, etc.) takes an uncharacteristic direction with this freewheeling tale of a young inventor cast back to the time of her hero, Leonardo Da Vinci. He follows Kevin Henkes’s lead in creating a cast of small, somewhat pop-eyed mice, but the settings and costuming, not to mention plot, are more elaborate. Having built a mouse-shaped robot from mirror-written plans found in her local library, Providence discovers that it’s also a time machine when a pair of mischievous mouselings switches it on. Arriving on the outskirts of Renaissance Florence, the terrible two scurry into town with the machine’s wind-up key, leaving Providence and her tagalong little brother to chase them down with the help of Leonardo, a smooth-talking ally. Pausing for full-spread side excursions into an artist’s studio and a printing office, plus glimpses of Florentine daily life and a lavish saint’s day celebration, the author sends his visitors from the future scurrying in various directions, then reunites them for a climactic face-off with an anti-science ecclesiastic, and a last-second rescue that sees them safely home. The mix of fact and fiction is less smooth, but in pace and general tone this resembles the Time Warp Trio series and readers with a yen to tinker will find kindred spirits in both Providence and the insatiably curious polymath after whom she’s modeled herself. (afterword) (Picture book. 8-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689811609
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 3/4/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.27 (w) x 10.27 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Sabuda
Robert Sabuda grew up in Pinckney, Michigan, and is a graduate of the Pratt Institute in New York City. He is the author and illustrator of many books for children, including Tutankhamun's Gift, Arthur and the Sword, Saint Valentine, and most recently, The Blizzard's Robe. He is also a pop-up artist extraordinaire, and the creator of the bestselling The Twelve Days of Christmas and The Wizard of Oz. He lives with his partner, author and illustrator Matthew Reinhart, in New York City. You can visit Robert at www.RobertSabuda.com.


Pop-up books are true oddities of children's publishing. They are charmingly quaint and old-fashioned, yet eternally popular. They've been around for ages, but precious few creative souls set out to become pop-up artists. This, however, is not the case with Robert Sabuda, who seems to have been born to make pop-up books.

Sabuda made his first step toward becoming one of the most ingenious pop-up artists in contemporary publishing as a very young child. He grew up in a household where books were held in the highest regard and reading was always encouraged. He has fond memories of being read to by his mother when he was a little boy. Sabuda's first encounter with a pop-up book occurred in a dentist office. Anxious about his appointment, young Robert's mother read a pop-up book with him to take his mind off the dentist's chair. He was instantly hooked.

Sabuda's background as a gifted artist also played a key role in his future career. As a kid, he was fortunate enough to be encouraged in his artistic pursuits by his teachers and his parents, his father being a mason and carpenter. He inherited from his dad a lifelong fascination with construction and avidly studied the pop-up books he received as gifts to find out what made them work. Imaginative and curious, he even made his own pop-ups out of discarded manila envelopes his mom brought home from her office.

This childhood hobby would prove invaluable, as an older Sabuda set out on a career in children's books. He got his start as a journeyman illustrator working with such writers as Eugene Bradley Coco (The Fiddler's Son; Wishing Well) and Jay Patrick Lewis (Earth Verses and Water Rhymes). He even worked on adaptations of Walt Whitman classics geared toward young readers.

Sabuda's first solo effort was Saint Valentine (1992), a retelling of the ancient tale of a humble Roman physician who brings about a miracle. The focal point of this charmingly simple story is Sabuda's illustrations, a series of intricate, exquisite mosaics made of marbleized and hand-painted paper that simulate the look of early Christian art. Proof of a craftsmanship rarely seen in children's books, Saint Valentine and its sequel, Tutankhamen's Gift, revealed the illustrator's uncanny talent for creating unconventional art.

In 1994, Sabuda discovered his niche with The Christmas Alphabet, a seasonal delight filled with eye-catching pop-ups and crafted with an elegance as appealing to adults as to children. The Christmas Alphabet was the first in a long line of remarkable paper-engineered wonders covering a wide range of subject matter. He would adapt famous tales (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), tackle contemporary issues (the Help the Animals series), and tell completely original stories (Winter's Tale).

Some of Sabuda's finest work has been done in collaboration with his partner and good friend Matthew Reinhart. Between them, these two pop-up geniuses have produced stunning work, including two wonderful science-oriented series, the Young Naturalist's Pop-up Handbook and the Encyclopedia Prehistorica. And although each has become increasingly involved in independent projects, they continue to influence each other in subtle and dramatic ways.

In explaining the attraction of the pop-up genre to today's technologically savvy kids, Sabuda says,. "I think [kids] are drawn to pop-up books because so much in their world today to them seems like magic, electronically," Sabuda told Barnes & Noble.com. "So, when they see one of my pop-ups books and they open it, they're amazed that it's occurring just by turning the page... that there's no electronics or bells or whistles to make that happen. I know that just from a creative part, they love seeing that magic occur."

Good To Know

As a boy, Sabuda took tap lessons at a local dance school, where he also furthered his artistic abilities by designing backdrops.

Shortly after graduating from Pratt Institute in New York City, Sabuda made ends meet by designing boxes for women's underwear.

Sabuda's first work in children's publishing was as an illustrator of coloring books, which books based on such popular movie characters as the very non-kid-friendly Rambo.

Sabuda shared some fun facts about himself in our interview:

"My first job was as a hardware stock boy and I LOVED it. To this day, when someone says 'Home Depot,' I start salivating like Pavlov's dog."

"I'm inspired to create the work that I do because I really don't know how to do anything else. Besides it's a bit of a curse, too. I always have so many ideas that I feel like I'll never get to them all."

"I don't know how to drive a car and have no desire to learn."

"My partner (author/illustrator) Matthew Reinhart and I just got an 1830's farmhouse in up state New York. Having it renovated has been a great project. It's like working on a huge pop-up that you can live in."

"To unwind, I do yoga, but my practice is pretty average. But I can do a headstand, away from the wall, which for me is a really big deal!"

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 8, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pinckney, Michigan
    1. Education:
      B.F.A., Pratt Institute, 1987
    2. Website:

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