One of the most vivid books that we checked out from the juvenile biography section was Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer by Robert Byrd. The cartoonish images can be fun for children, but for some reason they just didn’t feel as if they were really providing the subject with on par service. I wish there were actual photos of his works rather than caricatures to show children what they really do look like.
The text is also super heavy, which is good for researching—but poor for introducing something to children. I mainly skipped around with my five-year-old, pointing out some of the important details and inventions. One of the things about the book that was actually quite good was the way it took on da Vinci’s interests, providing a human context that many children’s historical books do not usually give to readers. An early adventure with a bird, for example, is provided as a reason why da Vinci was so amazed with flying. A story about exploring a cave gave him a childlike wonder (which he certainly had to have in order to produce the genius inventions and art that he did!) that we rarely hear about—and also made him relatable to my daughter, who also loves to explore and watch animals. We both were intrigued upon learning that da Vinci was a vegetarian, something he and my daughter also have in common (on most days—sometimes she asks for chicken!).
Byrd has definitely done his homework, and his picture book is aptly named. A central theme in the book is the dreaming of da Vinci and how his imagination came to life. I only wish it had a little less text and was more readable as a story. If we had time to keep the book for longer, we might dabble in a bit each night, making it more digestible for her age. We may decide to purchase the book if her interest continues.
I definitely don’t recommend the book for small children who are interested in, say, the Mona Lisa; but this is a wonderful book for any art student or child who is very interested in this beautiful dreamer and his works. We have yet to find something that’s perfectly designed for younger children, but when we do I will certainly share it. In the meantime, we will continue to browse through this one until it’s due in a couple of weeks.