LEONARDO’S SHADOW

OR, MY ASTONISHING LIFE AS LEONARDO DA VINCI’S SERVANT

It’s difficult to imagine who will be attracted to this plodding historical novel. Told in the first person by the young Giacomo, servant boy to the master artist, it lurches and rambles by turns. Curiously lacking in any sense of time or place, readers are told it’s 15th-century Milan, but little situates them there. Giacomo wants to learn to paint, but Leonardo will not teach him. There goodhearted female servant who mothers Giacomo eventually dies. In Grey’s hands, the artist comes across as a pompous windbag and completely uninteresting. There are blocks of text in which the author tells readers about mural and fresco painting or about mixing and making paint colors, but no feeling informs them and they do not advance the story. There is a plot of sorts involving alchemy and Giacomo’s unknown parentage, and his need to speed up Leonardo’s painting of the Last Supper, but it doesn’t amount to much. The author can’t even get Italian names quite right, using “da Vinci” as though it were Leonardo’s surname. Good idea, bad execution. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4169-0543-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

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WHEN EAGLES FALL

Thirteen-year-old Alexis has been “banished” (her word) by her mother, who lives in San Diego, to International Falls, Minnesota, where her father is the foremost authority on the bald eagle. He heads a small team who are banding eaglets and researching the eagles’ habitat. Alexis is immediately involved and learns quickly, though it’s difficult work and complicated further by the swarms of mosquitoes and hot weather. She resents her father’s authority and the team’s respect for him. In spite of this, she becomes fascinated with the birds and rashly decides to remove a fish lure from an eagle’s nest situated on a nearby island. Though successful in climbing the tree, she lifts an eaglet out of the nest and drops it. Then she loses the paddle to the canoe and finds herself stranded on an island with an injured eaglet. For two days she struggles with a storm, a visiting bear, and hunger. She manages to feed the eaglet and herself through fashioning a crude fishing rod. She finds shelter: an abandoned house on the island obviously not used for years. Surprisingly, it is a bat refuge, full of bat dung, with hundreds of bats returning in the evening. Knowing the eaglet must have assistance, in desperation, she sets the house on fire and is rescued. Throughout these difficulties, she finally allows herself to think of her little brother, who has recently died from cancer. Working through her grief, she realizes her father’s actions, which she so resented at the time, were a result of a grief as deep as her own. The ending is a bit pat, with the eagle flown to a healing center and her parents beginning to talk to each other. The tale moves along well and will be enjoyed particularly by readers of survivalist stories. The author’s note describes her hands-on research with eagle experts and includes several Web sites where naturalists can learn more. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0665-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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NEVER CRY ``ARP!''

Stories about the author's childhood adventures growing up in a small town, including one in which a delinquent dog tangles with a skunk, and two in which eminently satisfying tricks are played on pompous bullies. Others involve youthful disasters, accident-prone friends, eccentric townsfolk, camp-outs, and crazy schemes. McManus is a sort of Dave Barry for kids. His stories are not merely amusing: They are laugh-out-loud, stomach-clutching, tears-rolling-down-your-cheeks hilarious. Factual or not, the names of people display a backwoods Dickensian humor, from Rancid Crabtree, the old woodsman, to a friend, Retch Sweeney, and his two kid brothers, Erful and Verman, and to Miss Goosehart, a teacher at Delmore Blight Grade School. The humor is often broad, but its expression is matter-of-fact; McManus writes for those with good vocabularies who can read between the lines. Really comic stories that also treat this audience with intelligence are something of a rarity; this collection is as welcome as lemonade in the desert. (Short stories. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8050-4662-3

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1996

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