cover image UH-OH, LEONARDO!


Robert Clarke Sabuda, . . S&S/Atheneum, $16.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81160-9

Where's Topo Gigio when you need him? Young mice run amok in 16th-century Florence in Sabuda's (The Night Before Christmas; Tutankhamun's Gift) idiosyncratic, wordy picture book. When modern-day mouse Providence Traveler visits the local library and discovers a design for a mechanical mouse supposedly drawn by her hero, Leonardo da Vinci, she recreates the invention. But a mishap involving Providence's young brother and the pesky neighbor twins lands all four mice (and the seemingly magical mechanical one Providence has constructed) back in time, to da Vinci's stomping grounds (assuming he and his peers had been mice). A run-in with a corrupt bishop and a wild denouement in the Florence cathedral follow, but not before Providence and pals meet the great da Vinci himself. Unfortunately, the mix of elements—fantasy, slapstick, science, history—results in breathlessly paced mish-mash. Busily designed pages "from" Providence's sketchbook, consisting of panel or spot drawings with such themes as "The Streets of Florence," are inserted periodically; these offer factual observations but disrupt the visual and narrative flow. They also threaten to blur the distinction between Sabuda's inventions and da Vinci's—will readers come away thinking that da Vinci really did build a successful flying machine, as he does here? The bright pencil-and-watercolor artwork has humor and spunk, but fails to make the disparate pieces cohere. An author's note about da Vinci and his time is included. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)