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The Genius of Leonardo Review by Tammy Walker

Guido Visconti
Barefoot Books
(617) 576-0660
2067 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140

This beautifully illustrated picture book takes its reader on a journey with young Giacomo, a ten-year-old apprentice who lives with Leonardo da Vinci. This biography reads like historical fiction, allowing us to see da Vincis genius through the eyes of this young boy whom da Vinci calls, a liar, a thief, and a greedy brute. Many excerpts from da Vincis manuscripts are inserted throughout, along with many of his actual sketches. Because of its more academic style, this text would be most enjoyed by children eight and older.

Giacomo likes working with Leonardo and tries his best to change his bad character so that he may continue learning from this very important person. He learns that Leonardo can play the harp, write with both hands (backwards and forwards), and that he can certainly paint. Leonardo describes, to his apprentice, stylistic choices he made while painting the Mona Lisa. He teaches him about painting shadows and light. Giacomo sees birds and flight in a fresh way through his master. And, he is given a lesson on politics while Leonardo is designing weapons. Though the artist despises war, he loves freedom more. Giacomo learns how frescos are painted, enjoys seeing the finished Last Supper painting, travels with Leonardo to castles, and star gazes with his master. The young student is not certain he understands all that Leonardo has taught him, but he is sure that Leonard da Vincis work will be around a long time.

For those who wish to introduce their children to the Byzantine style of art, or who simply wish to have their children viewing beautiful illustrations, this text will enthrall. Its illustrator is an acclaimed artist. Each page is rich with deep, intense color and dramatic lines. This would also be a wonderful accompaniment to ones study of the early renaissance as several historic allusions are made to this time period. A younger student researching the life of da Vinci would have a brief synopsis of his main works and emphases. This artistic mini biography is a very accessible and interesting introduction to the life of Leonardo da Vinci.

Product review by: Tammy Walker, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2008.