A genius in pictures

22nd December 2000 at 00:00
So much can go wrong with a picture-book biography. The necessary condensing of a life can result in bizarre amplification of insignificant detail; the attempt to present the life as a story can lead to inaccuracy or misleading simplification; the pictures may fail to evoke credibility; messy or over-flamboyant design can unravel the good work of author and illustrator.

In The Genius of Leonardo, by Guido Visconti and Bimba Landmann (Barefoot Books pound;9.99), we have a glorious example of a book that succeeds in all departments even though it has the added risk of being a translation.

This English-laguage edition, translated from the Italian by Mark Roberts, has been gorgeously produced by Barefoot Books. Narrated by Giacomo, a young assistant, the book uses quotes directly from Leonardo da Vinci's manuscripts, references for which are given at the back. The artwork, by Bimba Landmann, is evocative and notable for her restrained, but consistent, use of a silver pen. Instead of the usual summary of a subject's life, written in order of key dates at the front or back of the book, the highlights are written beneath artist's impressions of da Vinci's notebooks. Recommended for Year 3 and above.

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