Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Leonardo - Beautiful Dreamer

Browsing a number of non-fiction picture books borrowed from my local library, I came across an interesting book 'Leonardo - Beautiful Dreamer' by Robert Byrd.

This non-fiction picture book details the life and works of Leonardo Da Vinci.

The front cover of the book is rich in detail. It has an illustrated portrait of Leonardo at the top of the cover, with an elegant 'Leonardo' beneath it. In a different font beneath the name are the words beautiful dreamer. Around the edges of the cover are a variety of thumbnail illustrations.

The end papers of the book, written in a different font again, are the quotes or statements attributed to Leonardo throughout his life, although this is never made clear to the reader at anytime in the book.

Byrd begins the text with an introduction, drawing in readers by asking them to consider their own personal experience in regards to understanding and learning about how complicated things work. He then uses this personal experience, to lay the foundation for the kind of person Leonardo was - a curious man who conducted numerous investigations to understand the laws of nature and use those understanding to design unimagined marvels. Facing the introduction is another illustration portrait of Leonardo, sitting within a picture frame, surrounded by more thumbnail illustrations.

Byrd lays out each consecutive double page spread page using a combination of elements. Each double page spread has it's own title located at the top of the left hand page (apart from the introduction and first double page spread where it is located on the top right hand page. The most prominently sized text on each page contains a recount of the stages of Leonardo's life, beginning with his birth, through his career and life until his death. Each page continues a main illustration that is reflective of what is recounted of Leonardo's life on that page. Additional facts that elaborate further on the recount are located around the page in a different font much smaller in size. These facts are accompanied by smaller illustrations, that either reflect the additional information, or provide further information themselves such as maps or diagrams. The illustrations are very detailed, yet reliant on the text for meaning to be made from them.

At the end of the book, Byrd has included an Author's Note that attempts to explain how we come to have information regarding Leonardo  and acknowledges personages who have had something to do with the research into his life. Following the Author's note is a very detailed time line beginning from Leonardo's birth through the 1880's and the publications of Leonardo's notebooks.

The final page contains an extensive bibliography that includes helpful references for the illustrations, World Wide Web resources and resources specifically for children and young adults.

This books requires time to read, as it is quite in depth. The author  does not treat his audience with condescension and does not make the illustrations cutesy or inconsistent with the text. Rather this text is geared towards upper primary and high school students, containing more complicated vocabulary and text explanations. This books is very visually appealing and goes to great length to portray an in depth and accurate recount of the life and works of Leonardo for children and young teens. It would be a great book to use to introduce a science unit on design and innovation.

Byrd, R. (2003). Leonardo - Beautiful Dreamer. New York: Penguin Putnam

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