Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

Kathleen Krull
Illustrator:  Boris Kulikov 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 10 to 14
Penguin, 2005   ISBN: 978-0670059201

For many of us the name Leonardo da Vinci is synonymous with the image of the Mona Lisa's secretive smile and the famous self portrait that da Vinci drew of himself showing an old man with a flowing beard. He was a great artist, but in fact he considered his artistic accomplishments to be less important than his studies of anatomy, water, flight, and engineering. In short Leonardo considered himself to be a scientist first and an artist second.

In this superbly researched and highly entertaining book, Kathleen Krull has managed to reach back through time and to truly explore da Vinci's fascinating and quite complex personality. She also paints a portrait of da Vinci's times so that we can see how he was influenced by what was happening around him and how much he was way ahead of his times in the way he thought and in the way he worked. We discover that da Vinci was infamous for leaving projects incomplete and that he had considerable difficulties finding a patron to support him.

An often amusing and a very accessible writing style makes this biography perfectly suited for young people who are not naturally drawn to historical themes. Colloquial language helps gives the account a modern feel and makes da Vinci seem very real. Readers will be able to see that this was a man who left his mark on our lives even though he lived over five hundred years ago.

This is one of the books in the 'Giants of Science' series.