On April 15, 1492, the great Leonardo Da Vinci made his entrance into the world. He would grow up to be an inventor, artist, architect, scientist and true visionary whose curiosity knew no boundaries. He painted the Mona Lisa and many other masterpieces such as the Last Supper, as well as making sketches and drawings of flying machines, mechanical robots and the anatomy of the human body. His life and work exemplify the power of creativity, and should be shared with children to encourage them in their own journey of discovery and creation. Here are some books that may inspire children to reveal their own inner Da Vinci!
Journal of Inventions: Leonardo Da Vinci
(Silver Dolphin Books, $27.95) by Jaspre Bark – Ages 9 to 13
This innovative book presents excerpts from the journals of this great artist along with magnificently detailed pop-up illustrations of his inventions. The pop-ups are interactive, with turning wheels and other moving pieces to help readers understand his explorations in hydraulics, architecture and even military engineering. Children won’t want to miss the pop-up automaton, Da Vinci’s conception of a mechanical man. When juxtaposed with writings on anatomy from his journal, the automaton shows how his curiosity about how humans, literally put together from bones, tendons and muscles, influenced his other creations. Although the journal writings can be a bit dense for young readers, the author has selected lively and engaging sections to illustrate his creative process.
Leonardo Da Vinci for Kids
(Chicago Review Press, $19.95) by Janis Hebert – Ages 8-12
In this biography/activity book, readers not only get to discover Da Vinci’s life and work, but they can also try out 21 experiments and activities based on his creations. So, after learning about Da Vinci’s working class upbringing in Tuscany to his rise as a great artist of the Renaissance period, children can then try sketching; determining the best launch angle for a catapult or even making a soup that this great man may have enjoyed for supper. The activities give children insight into the artist’s development and his innovative mind. Adults will appreciate that most of the activities do not require any special materials. Instead, the focus is on using a few tools, and especially the imagination, to develop greater awareness of the beauty and mystery of life.
Katie and the Mona Lisa
(Orchard Picture Books, $9.45) by James Mayhew – Ages 4 – 8
No exploration of Leonardo Da Vinci would be complete without learning more about his most famous masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. Even to this day, her mysterious smile continues to intrigue all those who set their eyes on it. In this lovely picture book, a little girl named Katie, standing in front of the painting, wonders aloud about the woman’s smile. Next things she knows, the Mona Lisa has invited her into the painting to learn more. But Katie soon discovers that Mona Lisa is bored and on the verge of losing her famous smile. To avert this disaster, Katie and Mona Lisa set off on an adventure through other masterpieces from the Renaissance period, including Sandro Botticelli’s Primevara and Raphael Sanzio da Urbino’s Saint-George, creating a certain amount of mayhem along the way. Author James Mayhew has created a fun and whimsical way for children to learn about Da Vinci and other artists and to gain a better understanding of the magic required to capture not just a person’s features but also a piece of their soul.