cover image Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

Kathleen Krull, , illus. by Boris Kulikov. . Viking, $15.99 (124pp) ISBN 978-0-670-05920-1

With this illuminating biography, Krull (The Boy on Fairfield Street ) kicks off her planned six-volume Giants of Science series. Krull convincingly portrays her subject, noting the Renaissance man's remarkably far-reaching accomplishments while also conveying his humanity and sense of humor. She places him in the context of his times, describing him as an outsider (as one born out of wedlock) and explains that the young Leonardo had a close rapport with his "scientist-farmer" uncle, and that "the natural world was Leonardo's first laboratory." When Leonardo became a teenager, his father secured for him an apprenticeship to Florence's leading painter and sculptor (luckily, "artists didn't necessarily have to be respectable," Krull observes with a wink), Andrea del Verrocchio. From him Leonardo learned that "an artist should be capable of rendering anything in nature." This lesson forged a vital link between science and art that endured throughout Leonardo's life. Krull describes the impact of Gutenberg's movable type, and the resulting knowledge giving rise to a greater influx of ideas as more people had access to books. The author also underscores the significance of a series of notebooks (written backwards), which were "the core obsession of Leonardo's life" and are "what place him among the giants of science." With an inviting, conversational narrative and Kulikov's (The Perfect Friend , reviewed Aug. 15) occasional atmospheric pen-and-inks, this series launches with an impressive start. Ages 10-up. (July)