Module 7: Leonardo’s Horse

20 07 2010

Book Cover

Summary: This is a story about Leonardo da Vinci and his life’s work, primarily the 28-foot-tall horse statue that he never completed. The book tells the story of this horse, how da Vinci first got the commission to create the horse, how he designed the horse and why it was never completed. The book then fast forwards centuries to 1977 and Charles Dent, an American art lover who learned about da Vinci’s horse and was determined to complete it as a gift to the Italian people.

Citation: Fritz, J. (2001) Leonardo’s Horse. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

My Impressions: I was expecting there to be more detail about da Vinci’s life and his other inventions, but the book focuses primarily on da Vinci’s unfinished horse. Despite that, the story was enjoyable, full of information I had never heard. The only problem I had with it is that it seemed to downplay da Vinci’s many achievements and genius.


“Although there are quite a few books about Leonardo, none delve so deeply into the history of the statue. Even the design of the book is unique. A title that is sure to create a lot of interest among young art, history, and horse lovers.” –Anne Chapman Callaghan, School Library Journal review excerpt

“Talbott’s (Forging Freedom) diverse multimedia artwork includes reproductions of da Vinci’s notebooks, panoramas revealing the Renaissance in lavish detail and majestic renderings of the final equine sculpture. Talbott makes creative use of the book’s format a rectangle topped by a semi-circle: the rounded space by turns becomes a window through which da Vinci views a cloud shaped like a flying horse; the domed building that was Dent’s studio and gallery; and a globe depicting the route the bronze horse travels on its way from the U.S. to Italy. An inventive introduction to the Renaissance and one of its masters.” Publisher’s Weekly review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: This book would in an activity about inventions or inventors. After reading the book children could come up with and design their own invention and explain what it would do.


Module 7: Bodies From the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii

20 07 2010

Book Cover

Summary: This book chronicles the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79 and the destruction of the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The author provides a timeline of the eruption as well as the excavation process of the sites and describes both in an easy to understand manner. This book also includes a number of photographs of the excavation process and the remains as they are today.

Citation: Deem, J. M. (2005) Bodies From the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

My Impressions: I enjoyed this book. It was full of great factual information that is easy for a middle schooler or above to understand and increase their knowledge. I visited Pompeii when I was in 8th grade and I recognize some of the photographs in the books as ruins and skeletons I saw. I particularly enjoyed the section in this book in which the author highlights the discoveries at five different sites and the remains that were found there. This section makes the book more personal, the reader is able to get a little bit into the lives and houses of the people the explosion affected.


“Deem explains how scientists have used these molds and other evidence to piece together the life styles and final moments of some of the victims, and conveys these heart-wrenching tales. Dramatic photographs of the casts capture the horror of this event and help readers to envision day-to-day life in this civilization. With incredibly engrossing images and narrative, this is a powerful and poignant piece of nonfiction.” –Jodi Kearns, School Library Journal review excerpt

“The excavations and body preservation techniques are explained in detail; everyday life in the city and the later tourist activity centered in Pompeii are also highlighted. But the jewels here are the numerous black-and-white (and some color) photographs, especially those featuring the plaster casts and skeletons of people in their death throes. The horizontal format, with pages looking as though they were partially bordered in marble, makes an attractive setting for the art. Excellent for browsers as well as researchers.” –Ilene Cooper, Booklist review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: This would be a great book to go along with a book talk on ancient civilizations or natural disasters.

Module 6: Pink and Say

13 07 2010

Book Cover

Summary: This is the story of a black boy and a white boy fighting for the Union army during the Civil War. Pink finds Say wounded and left for dead from a battle and both boys make their way to Pink’s home to recover under the care of his mom. However all their lives are put in danger when marauding Confederates come to the house.

Citation: Polacco, Patricia. (1994) Pink and Say. New York: Philomel Books

My Impressions: I love the way the book was told, not just as a story, but as family history as told by the main character’s great-great-grandaughter. The pictures are vivid and bold, as the wounded boys travel the entire ground is red with bits of grass, as though the land itself is bleeding. The story itself is very moving and both characters are realistic.


“The figure of Pink’s mother borders on the sentimental, but the boys’ relationship is beautifully drawn. Throughout the story there are heartbreaking images of people torn from a loving embrace. Pictures on the title and copyright pages show the parallel partings as each boy leaves his family to go to war.” –Hazel Rochman, Booklist Online review excerpt

“Say, 15, had never seen a black person up close until Pink, also a young Union soldier, saves his life. During his brief stay in Pink’s home, the wounded boy comes to understand his friend’s unconquerable vision of freedom. A memorable family reminiscence with evocative paintings.” —School Library Journal review

Library Use Suggestion: This would be a great book to teach children a little bit about the Civil War. It could even be of use to older children, to help them gain perspective on what the war meant for people. Children could discuss what they think the war meant to people on both sides and why those people were willing to die for what they believed in.