In our math history lessons (from Livingmath.net) we have finally reached the Renaissance. The focus is on Leonardo Da Vinci, a cross-curricular topic if one ever existed. Is he an artist, an astronomer, a mathematician, or an inventor? Of course, he is all of those, and that’s what makes a study of him so fascinating. We can veer off onto lots of tangents and make application to many different disciplines.
Da Vinci Picture Books
At the recommendation from the Livingmath.net book lists, I bought Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer by Robert Byrd. Yes, it is a picture book. But it’s not an “easy” book. It’s an oversized, visually appealing overview of Leonardo that is full of narrative, quotes, tidbits, and anecdotes. And of course, all through the book there are beautifully detailed illustrations. Each two page spread focuses on one aspect of Da Vinci’s studies or an event in his life.
We already have Diane Stanley’s Leonardo da Vinci, so when I made my shopping list, I wondered if I really needed another Da Vinci picture book. But I am so glad I bought this one. The detailed illustrations and the extra details really bring Da Vinci to life with a very engaging style.
When I read the article Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children, I was especially glad I did my part to keep picture books in print. People who think that picture books are not mentally stimulating are not using books like Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer as a standard. Or maybe as soon as they see illustrations, they discount the book as juvenile without actually reading it. Absolutely wrong. Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer is the perfect example of a picture book for all ages. The illustrations help you understand the text which is full of complex scientific concepts.
We read this meaty picture book over the course of two weeks, reading two to three 2-page spreads daily.
Da Vinci Tangent — Journaling
Da Vinci was a journaler; he kept notebooks with his sketches. I encouraged Sprite to keep journaling and sketching because that is what many artists and writers and inventors do as habit.
Narrating Da Vinci
Because there is so much to learn about Da Vinci, I asked Sprite to choose just two topics to narrate in writing. She chose Da Vinci’s pranks and his interest in flight.
Thumbnails of Da Vinci Notebooking Pages
I made some notebooking pages for Sprite. When selecting which ones to print, she said, “I like this one, but can you take off the picture? I want to draw my own.” This is why we mostly use blank notebooking pages. (Get some on my Freebies page.)
1. Leonardo Da Vinci Science Notebooking Pages — weapons and human anatomy.
2. Leonardo Da Vinci Biography Notebooking Pages — images of Da Vinci himself.
3. Leonardo Da Vinci Art Notebooking Pages — Mona Lisa, sketches, caricatures.
4. Leonardo Da Vinci Quotations Copywork Pages — cursive and print.
Of course the Metropolitan Museum of Art calendar had one page by Da Vinci. Now that the year is at its end, it’s fun to be able to shuffle the pages and look for various styles of art or artists.
I also read The Second Mrs. Gioconda aloud to Sprite. The book was humorous and included a lot of history about Da Vinci. But I recommend this book with some reservations. There are adult themes of marital infidelity in the story. It’s never stated explicitly that Il Moro, Ludovico (Leonardo’s patron) is having affairs, but it does mention his first “love” before his wife and then his new “love” after the interest in his wife fades. I found that inclusion very disturbing. Worse, the element of the second lover during his marriage is essential to the plot as it explains some of his wife’s behavior. It’s not the kind of thing you could just skip over.
Aw, such a cute photo of Sprite! Thanks for the link to the NYT article. I kind of wondered why my favorite local bookstore had a smaller selection this year. I LOVE picture books and my “big kids” will still sit down and read their favorites with me.
Sprite looks so pretty in her picture. It’s amazing how fast our dc grow.
Thanks for this. We have da Vinci coming up in the spring. =)
Oh you bring back memories of our study of DA Vinci! I think we may have used this book as well… The pages you have created are wonderful… Our children built a replica of his first flying machine as there hands on project. We talked a lot about about what an amazing and talented visionary he truly was for his time.
J's mom says
You pick such gorgeous picture books!
I love “Leonardo da Vinci for Kids: His Life and Ideas” by Janis Herbert – actually we like the whole “For Kids” series! Here’s a link to her page of links to explore and you can even check out sample pages and her table contents for each of her books…
Happy Home Schooling 😉
I love that you used Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer in your studies! I am a huge fan of quality picture books, and I use them often. I always learn something from them myself and we all enjoy the illustrations. I also agree with you about the book The Second Mrs. Gioconda. I read this along with my son (I read parts and then he read alone and narrated to me) but at the time he was a little older than Sprite, I think. Even so, the book definitely contains what I consider adult content! It was a great book, but in hindsight I probably should have waited until he was older to include it on our reading list. :-/ It did provide an opportunity to reinforce some moral concepts, and discuss the decisions that people make (which we did from a Biblical perspective) and how that impacts their lives and the lives of people around them, so it was a positive educational moment!
We love quality picture books. I am going to go study that living math site.
Giggly Girls says
It looks like it’s going to be a great study.
I love Diane Stanley books!
Ooh, I read that NYTimes article when it came out. Three cheers for picture books. As a bookseller, I can’t tell you the number of times people choose a twaddly chapter book over a first class picture book.
My all-time favorite is “The Genius of Leonardo” by Guido Visconti and Bimba Landmann. Even the over-sized format of the book is the Golden Rectangle!
And congratulations on all the nominations – you are very deserving of them!
I read that NYT article, too! Very, very sad. I still have pictures books from when I taught kindergarten and from when our nearly college aged daughter was a pre-schooler. Our lives are made rich through wonderful picture books.
Wonderful post. During our second term we are studying DaVinci. I am going to look up your recommendations today. Thanks so much for your post.
There was an excellent Da Vinci display at the HK Science Museum. My kids enjoyed it. This reminds me that we need to read a bit about him while the kids still remember it.
What an inspiring post! I love seeing the merging of all the disciplines in this way, allowing children to connect to a subject on so many levels. This is how learning should be! My guy is only 5 so we have a while to wait but I am excited for our future learning : )
I highly recommend a book we just got from the library, Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci. It talks about many, many of his ideas and shows how inventors have brought his ideas to life throughout history to the modern day. Really fun pictures, too.
Nice study! We’re slowly moving toward Da Vinci ourselves.
That study is so cool. What a neat find in the book! We went to a DaVinci exhibit when it came to our town and I was amazed at all the replicas of the art and experiments he created. He was a marvel of a man. Thanks for sharing your study if him.
Thanks for the beautiful da Vinci pages. Just printed off a couple of them to use tomorrow. I truly appreciate your hard work!
There is a really great science pop-up book that we are using called Journal of Inventions: Leonardo da Vinci. It’s able to be understood by my 7 year old, but is still considered cool by his 17 year old cousin.