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Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci
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Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  115 ratings  ·  46 reviews
In 1781, Thomas Paine came up with a model for a single-span bridge; in 1887, Adolf Eugen Fick made the first pair of contact lenses; and in 1907, Paul Cornu built the first helicopter. But Leonardo da Vinci thought of all these ideas more than five hundred years ago!

At once an artist, inventor, engineer, and scientist, da Vinci wrote and drew detailed descriptions of wh
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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Lisa Vegan
Nov 11, 2011 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: kids interested in inventions and history, and nature too; veg*n children
This is such a well-designed book. On one page are the histories of various new at the time inventions and on the facing pages are the many years before (decades, centuries) of the ideas of da Vinci, via his drawings. It shows what an inventive and forward thinker da Vinci was. I like how at the end of the book (view spoiler)...more
Aug 16, 2010 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a fascinating look at the genius and inventiveness that is credited to Leonardo da Vinci. Just a fraction of his notes have been found, but what we have seen shows creativity, precise scientific observation and a shrewd ability to copy what he found in nature. The way the book is arranged, with the first known use of an item that he thought up and depicted in his notes as the "Neo" items, alongside his depictions (the "Leo" items), shows his foresight and amazing scientific discoveries....more
What a neat way to understand Leonardo's ideas and drawings, and get a better understanding of the modern counterparts of the inventions. My quibbles are that the mirror text samples are too difficult to read in that color-on-color curvy font, and the presentation of Leo as always white-haired (did he not do any science or design when younger?).
Even if you’ve never felt the slightest inclination to write a non-fiction picture book a day of your life, it’s still possible to take a gander at a book, blink twice, and say to yourself, “Now why didn’t I think of that?” Today’s example: Gene Barretta's newest. When you’re an American child you are inundated with a lot of fancy names of folks, most white, many male, and almost all dead. Dead white men predominate and blend together. It’s hardest to remember them if they were simply aligned wi...more
Kaye Cloutman
More often than not, Leonardo da Vinci gets put in a box together with Rembrandt, Monet, Michelangelo, Picasso, and Van Gogh. While all of these artists are to be revered and appreciated, many would agree that Leonardo da Vinci far exceeded all their combined talents. He was a true genius, somewhat in the same category as Nikola Tesla. Da Vinci was a real visionary and way beyond his years with his ideas and contraptions, but there was much more to him than that. In Neo Leo, author Gene Barretta...more
Leonardo da Vinci is my favorite inventor! I like learning about him!
Ruth Ann
At my local library, this picture book is located in the 600's. I would recommend it for students ages 8-12. The book focuses on the ideas found in Leonardo's original notes. On the lefthand page, in full color, readers will find each invention as it first appeared in the modern world (Neo). On the right-hand page, in brown tones, Leonardo's version is shown with backwards script. (Leo always wrote backwards, perhaps because he was left-handed and this prevented the ink from being smeared. Reade...more
S10_Jessica Oster
format: picture book
age: grades 2-8
protagonist: Leonardo DaVinci

This is a picture book biography about all of the inventions DaVinci helped to create. The illustrations are bright and offer a fun way of looking at the roots of different inventions based on DaVinci's many pages of notes, without going to far into detail. It also includes some interaction with the text as it has places where readers can read more about different inventions by holding the book up to a mirror to read the backward pr...more
Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo Da Vinci by Gene Barretta is a clever informational picturebook book about the great scientist, inventor, engineer and artist and his many ideas which fore-shadowed modern inventions.

An author's note begins the book, introducing Leonardo and noting his use of mirror writing, which Barretta uses when discussing his ideas and inventions. Barretta's text, with accompanying illustrations, focuses on over a dozen of Leonardo's sketches and ideas, pairing them wi...more
Quinn Rollins
Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci is a 2009 picture book by Gene Barretta. The author and illustrator has a similar book on Benjamin Franklin, but that doesn't make this one any less enjoyable.

Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated by the world around him. He studied animals and people. He watched plants grow and birds fly. He explored the mighty rivers. Nature was his teacher. It inspired his remarkable studies and inventions.

With that brief biography, Barretta sets up the reader, and...more
Beth Maline
This was one of the first books I picked, and I loved it. The illustrations are clever, and introduce a young reader (of maybe 7-10 years of age) to a painter that adults are all familiar, but takes the reader through the mind of Leonardo da Vinci the inventor, the creator, the dreamer. While we are all familiar with how he created wonderful paintings - the timeless classics - this book introduces robots and flying planes (gliders) to the reader in cheerful drawings and this offbeat genius.

Megan D. Neal
This very fun and eminently readable book highlights the inventions of probably the most well-known Renaissance Man. Leonardo da Vinci's fascination with the natural world inspired him to create all kinds of drawings and inventions based on the patterns he saw in nature. Gene Barretta has shown that so many "modern" inventions were products of da Vinci's mind hundreds of years earlier (e.g. flying machines, contact lenses, movie projectors, single-span bridges, tanks, gears and chains, etc.)

Playful, edge-to-edge illustrations and cheerily worded nuggets of history, mystery, physics, and biology paint a thrilling picture of a brilliantly curious and creative man that will tickle the scientist in all of us.

You can listen in on our chat about this book on our Just One More Book! Children's Book Podcast.

Right now, you can test out over 60 of Leonardo da Vinci's prototypes at Leonardo da Vinci: Man Inventor Genius.

Other books mentioned:
Now and Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Fra...more
Nov 17, 2009 Rebecca rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 3rd grade and up
So cool! The "Neo" of this book shows inventions in use today, usually credited to a "modern" inventor. The "Leo" portion, on the facing page, shows how these ideas were foreshadowed by the ideas and sketches of Leodardo da Vinci.

His bridge design shows how the triangle is the strongest shape (math tie-in). "He considered himself a pacifist but looked at weapons as a design challenge."

I was amazed to read that people are still creating things based on his sketches, and that 2/3 of his notes ar...more
Brianna Crall
Students enjoyed this book. Nice look at inventions and evolution of objects.
Leonardo da Vinci was brilliant and ingenious and it's hard to imagine that about 2/3 of his notes have been he may have had a million other ideas that we may never know about. I find him to be one of the most fascinating people in history. This was a great introduction into his ideas and how they have shaped today's inventions. I liked how Barretta showed both Da Vinci's ideas and then gave credit to the modern person who created them and made them work successfully. I learned a coup...more
What: This book is about the timeless inventions of Leonardo da Vinci. It details his work on airplanes and also shows his notes that he wrote backwards. This book also shows the inventors that got their ideas from da Vinci. It is a very colorful book that is great for capturing children's attention.

So What: When I bought this book, I had gotten it to create a lesson plan off of. I truly enjoyed it! I have also used it when assessing my students.

Now What: I would like to use this either in a te...more
Every time I read something about Leonardo Da Vinci, I am amazed. How can one person have such a grasp of knowledge on so many varied topics? Flying contractions, weapons of war, underwater breathing apparatus's, the mechanics of the human heart, auto-matrons, the list goes on, and on, and on. All this hundreds of years before anyone else was thinking or researching these ideas. Most of this was Leonard achieved by being observant of life around him. That in itself is something that seems to be...more
May 28, 2014 PWRL marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2014-new
Sandy Brehl
This is the fourth time I've read this book and it won't be the last. What a great way to introduce Leonardo DaVinci's brilliance to readers of any age. Even those who are aware of his various accomplishments will find surprises here in the details of his quirky habits and many unfulfilled creations. In addition, those who are credited with inventions that he originally conceived receive due attention and reference in the back matter. Colorful illustrations appeal but also clarify concepts.
Sam Bloom
I didn't really love the illustrations in this one - a bit too cutesy and cartoonish for the subject matter, imho - but still a really well-done book. Actually, there was one illustration that was great - the opening spread, with Leo on the left side looking across a medieval village. Art buffs should be able to spot several references to his paintings - not being an art historian, I can only be sure of one (Mona Lisa), but I'm pretty sure there's other stuff in there, too.
Melissa Stewart
Leonardo Da Vinci is certainly not a new figure in picture book biographies, but Gene Baretta has found a novel way to approach the artist and the many inventions sketched in his notebooks. Each spread features fun representations of contraptions in sa Vinci's notebboks alongside the real-life device that now exists. Overall, the book shows clearly just how much ahead of his time da Vinci was and how his ideas were spot on. Great book.
I definitely learned more from this book than I knew before. It was interesting to see some of the things Leonardo Da Vinci researched and theorized about. A fun twist in getting the reader to read some notes that were written backwards like Da Vinci wrote. However, the cursive font they used made it a lot harder to read!

Informative and an interesting presentation make this, I think, a good choice for a Beehive nomination.
There's a nice book trailer at to this interesting and nicely illustrated biography. Not often is a non-fiction book on the CCBA nominee list, but this one may appeal to children enough for them to nominate it. Author is from Pennsylvania. I read in the spring.
I like this book--but my kids cannot grasp the concept that on each page someone later in history (neo) actually built one of Leonardo da Vinci's designs (leo). I'd really like to revisit it when my girls are older--even Jr. High kids would benefit from this kind of historical picture book.
Sep 02, 2012 Krista rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Gene Barretta does a nice job showing how some of da Vinci's ideas have inspired some inventions that we use everyday. He explains how da Vinci would write backwards on his drawings and to learn more information you have to read backwards writing throughout the book.
Amy Carr
An interesting look at Leonardo da Vinci and his amazing inventions and ideas! The book is definitely intended for "older" childre...4th grade and older although I read it out loud to my 5 year old and she seemed to enjoy parts of it.
Diana Hanke
Very fascinating. The links to Leo's notes and modern inventions presented an interesting and fun way to look at the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci. The bright and colorful illustrations enhance the text. Excellent for grades K - 6.
Rocheal Hoffman
For upper elementary grades, this book introduces students to a well-known scientist. This can be the beginning of a unit study. Students may further choose to investigate a scientist of their own. Great book to stimulate imagination.
Lindsey Rogers
Great book to introduce students to a well known scientist. Great book to stimulate students imagination! This book is for 3rd to 5th graders. Students could use this book and then think of their own ideas.
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Gene Barretta is the author and illustrator of Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin and Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci. He is also author and illustrator of Dear Deer, which was a Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts and listed on the Parenting Magazine Mom-Tested Books of the Year List. He holds a B.F.A. in Film Studies from New York University, and h...more
More about Gene Barretta...
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