Monday, July 3, 2017

Giants of Science: Leonardo da Vinci

Image result for giants of science leonardo da vinciGiants of Science: Leonardo da Vinci
Kathleen Krull
Penguin, 2005  124 pages
Grades 5-8
Giants of Science series #1

First in a series of narrative biographies tracing the lives of important scientists, Krull introduces modern readers to the life of Renaissance artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci. Focusing more on da Vinci as a scientist than as an artist, as per the series title, Krull explores the scientific process and interests of da Vinci, all within a historical and cultural framework. Little is known about this intellectual great, so Krull fills in the holes as best she can, using phrases such as "maybe he...", never fictionalizing his life, yet flushing out details as appropriate to similar accounts of the time period. We learn about the many interests and pursuits of da Vinci including human anatomy, earth science, natural science, flight and philosophy. Throughout his lifetime da Vinci recorded his scientific findings, along with careful drawings, into a series of notebooks. In the years upon his death the notebooks became scattered throughout the western world. A section at the end of the book gives an account of the surviving sections of written findings and a challenge for readers to keep their eyes open to discover more. The volume is rounded out with a bibliography and an index for researchers. An author's note acknowledges da Vinci's contributions as an artist and invites readers to learn more about that facet of this important historical figure.

I always say "everything I know about the world is from reading children's books" and yet again that statement proves true. A true Renaissance man in every aspect of the term, da Vinci did it all: from studying everything from math to nature, dissecting human cadavers to learn more about human anatomy, and painting amazing works of art such as the famous Mona Lisa. Krull does not over-glorify him, instead painting a picture of a real man, warts and all, communicating to the readers his inability to complete projects or keep his various pursuits organized. Although non-fiction, this book is narrative in nature and reads like a story. It is a perfect choice for graduates of the popular "Who Was" series. Clearly meant for older elementary children, some mature aspects of da Vinci's life are touched upon including his illegitimate parentage and arrest as an adult for being a homosexual. Perfect for kids who like to read non-fiction recreationally, the addition of the index and bibliography make it useful for reports as well. Readers will learn about life in the Italian Renaissance, the early scientific process, and a little about the various inventions and scientific theories of this great man. Who knew that da Vinci was working on air travel four-hundred years before the Wright brothers? Readers may be inspired to learn more or, perhaps, try their own hand at inventing something or developing their own scientific notebooks.

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