Byrd, Robert. Leonardo, Beautiful Dreamer. Dutton, 2003. ISBN 978-0525470335 48 pp. $
This lavishly illustrated picture book biography of Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci paints a well-rounded portrait of the artist, inventor and philosopher who dabbled in everything from astronomy to weaponry. It is also timely; with the tremendous success of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code (Doubleday, 2003), Leonardo has never been a more fascinating figure.
Born in the Italian countryside, Leonardo had a curious eye and artistic hand from the start. These two qualities emerged in each endeavor he undertook, from painting and sculpting to writing observations and drawings in his notebooks to playing practical jokes and creating quirky mechanical toys for the aristocracy.
Byrd’s authority of and passion for his subject is evident in his thorough research and detailed drawings. Each themed two-page spread covers a period of Leonardo’s life, and is headed with a caption that brings all the pieces together. Small sections of quotes and additional information box in the main narrative on each page.
The wonderful illustrations have a comics styling to them. Each page is dominated by a large color drawing set off by smaller sepia toned maps, reproductions and pictures. The end papers are filed with quotes in what looks like da Vinci’s own hand.
An author’s note, annotated timeline, and extensive bibliography are appended. Recommended for public school and library collections serving students in grades 4-8; great cross-curriculum potential.