Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Genius of Leonardo

The Genius of Leonardo

Guido Visconti
Illustrator:  Bimba Landmann 
Picture Book
For ages 7 to 12
Barefoot Books, 2000   ISBN: 978-1841483016

Giacomo is, according to his master Leonardo da Vinci, “a liar, a thief, and a greedy brute.” The boy is very hurt when he reads this description of himself and he decides that he is going to do his best to reform and to do what he can to please Leonardo. Giacomo does not want to be sent away for he likes his eccentric master. He knows that Leonardo is considered to be very brilliant, a genius even, but Giacomo is not sure what this means. What is a genius?

Over the years Giacomo comes to learn what this term means and he not only improves his behavior somewhat but he comes to love and respect his master. As Giacomo watches, Leonardo paints beautiful pictures, invents all kinds of machines, studies birds and other animals, studies the forces of nature, and much more. From this man of many talents Giacomo comes to learn what it means to paint a shadow in a painting, that “birds never fly downward tail first,” and that there are times when we try to learn something new simply for the sake of learning and not necessarily to gain something by it.

In good times and bad, Giacomo is by his master’s side, and we, the reader, are there with him as we read this unique picture book biography. Full of abridged excerpts from Leonardo’s famous notebooks, we learn a great deal about this extraordinary man and come to appreciate what it might have been like to be his apprentice and his friend.

Very striking icon-like paintings in naturalistic shades of brown, red, yellow, and blue provide an excellent backdrop for the text.