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Leonardo the Florentine

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Who are the Medici brothers? And who is trying to assassinate them? Why was the Pitti Palace never completed? And what part does Leonardo play in all of this?

Leonardo da Vinci is remembered as an artist and inventor. But who was he before anyone knew his name? This family-friendly novel explores the history and legends of his early years in Florence. It also weaves a mystery of politics and power.

Early reviews of the story: "What a fascinating story! It drew me in right away."

This is the first novel in Catherine's series: The Life and Travels of Da Vinci. Be sure to check out the sequels: Leonardo: Masterpieces in Milan, and Leonardo: To Mantua and Beyond.

And if you are looking for more information on this fascinating Renaissance man, take a look at her biography - Da Vinci: His Life and His Legacy.

158 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 13, 2010

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About the author

Catherine McGrew Jaime

203 books9 followers
Historian and World Traveler
Former Homeschool Mom of 12 (now retired)

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Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews
Profile Image for Happy Booker.
1,197 reviews68 followers
September 19, 2017
Leonardo the Florentine is a historical fiction about the life, travels, and biography of Da Vinci. This book is a representation of an attempt to provide an insightful and educational view of how Leonardo’s life was before he became the famous Da Vinci.

After reading the book, there is no doubt in the vast and immense knowledge of the author over the subject matter, however, what did transpire within the content may not have been as informational as it could have been. This may have been due to the shortness of the book or, it could have been because a majority of the work focused on building up the foundation of future coming additions?

Having said this, I believe what the book did cover, was Leonardo’s beautiful young life and how he ended to invent and what inspired him. Leonardo, being an Italian Renaissance polymath, whose area of interests included art, architecture, science, mathematics, music, literature and much more, is not an easy job to write about.

The father of paleontology, ichnology and, architecture would most likely need many more pages to represent who he really was.

I recommend this book to anyone that is interested in Leonardo da Vinci, history and enjoys reading on similar topics.
Profile Image for Susan.
1,745 reviews36 followers
January 29, 2018
What little I knew of Leonardo da Vinci before listening to this book was about his later years. Leonardo the Florentine does a great job of showing us who Leonardo was as a boy, teen, and young man. At an age we would today consider far to young to be off on your own, Leonardo apprenticed at Master Verrochio’s art workshop in Florence. The story excels at describing not only the work done at the workshop but the various architecture, pageantry, and statues around Florence. Leonardo was exposed to quite the variety of art forms and media during his formative years. Even though he was much older that the typical novice, he possessed a deep interest and no little amount of natural skill. Verrochio noted that and encouraged Leonardo to take on greater and greater challenges.

There’s a bit of intrigue tossed into the tale. Leonardo was alive during the time of the Medicis and the politics of the time often involved battles and small wars up and down the length of Italy. Leonardo isn’t interested in politics and hopes to never get caught up in a war, but there is this mystery concerning the Pitti Palace that threatens to suck Leonardo and his friends into intrigue. While I would have enjoyed the book a little more if this aspect of the story had more of a presence, I still enjoyed Leonardo uncovering information one clue at a time.

This is a family-friendly version of Leonardo’s younger years. There’s no gore or love story or even harsh words. All the characters are polite to each other, even the gruff ones. While I can appreciate that the focus of the story is giving us a good outline of young Leonardo’s life, it did come off as a little to tidied up. The 1470s were definitely harsher than our modern era with flush toilets, antibiotics, and the UN. A little grit would have given a more believable flavor to the story. Leonardo comes off as naive throughout the entire tale; as a kid and even teen, this would have probably worked but as he enters his young adult years, having lived without family and earning his keep from a young age, the naivety didn’t work so well.

While there are a handful of women mentioned, there are no female characters. There were obviously women in the 1470s in Florence and most likely there were some women in Leonardo’s life even if they were relegated to the roles of someone’s wife or housekeeper or cook or such. I would have appreciated even a token try at gender balancing this tale.
Leonardo the Florentine is a good source of information about Leonardo’s young years, if not detailed. I learned that Leonardo had no formal schooling (even by standards of the day) and had to learn Latin mostly on his own. This single skill opened a world of knowledge to Leonardo. His status as a student and worker at Verrochio’s workshop opened doors for him that would have remained closed otherwise due to his birth status. Prior to listening to this book, I did not know that Leonardo had such a strained relationship with his parents. Nuggets of info like these are revealed throughout the story in interesting ways. By the end, I felt I knew young Leonardo as a possible friend instead of some wise old man high up on a pedestal. 4/5 stars
The Narration: David Winograd did a pretty good job with this story. His Italian and Latin pronunciations of names and certain words sounded accurate to me. His voice as young, naive Leonardo was well done. There were a few places throughout the story where there were some odd pauses in the middle of sentences. All his character voices were distinct. 4.5/5 stars.
➜ This audiobook was received at no-cost from Audiobookworm Promotions. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
Profile Image for Carol Baldwin.
Author 1 book32 followers
June 28, 2017
If you have a middle school reader who enjoys history and art, then this novel which fictionalizes the early life of Leonardo da Vinci will be just the book for him or her.

This is the first in "The Life and Travels of da Vinci" series and it is obvious that the author, Catherine McGrew Jaime, has researched well a beloved topic. She expertly interwove facts about Leonardo's tense relationship with his father, his apprenticeship to master Verrocchio, Florence's architectural details, and information about the Medici family into a quick-reading narrative.

In this section, Leonardo has lived in Florence for only six months. He grabbed his drawing utensils--sketching paper and a charcoal stick.
What he really wanted to do was to draw--to draw the buildings that he was seeing here, and to put some of this amazing architecture down on paper where he could study it in the evenings. He had seen a church before he came to Florence, certainly, and yet he had never imagined this many churches in one location before. Church spires punctured the sky above Florence at every block. (p. 53)
When Leonardo wasn't busy helping Verrocchio mix paints, create colorful banners, jeweled robes, and beautiful blankets for the Medici family; or run errands for him, he learned Latin and hovered around other workshops. Alongside Antonio Pollaiuolo, he helped perform autopsies and studied muscles and joints. Other times he visited Paolo Toscanelli, a famous mathematician and mapmaker where he learned elements of astronomy, geography and optics.

At twenty-years-old, six years after being apprenticed to Verrochio, Leonardo was accepted into the Painters' Guild and given the title, Maestro (Master). Although he was entitled to open his own workshop he stayed another five years so he could continue to learn from Verrochio.

Once on his own, he began receiving small commissions. Although he was a masterful painter, inventing and science were his first loves. Even when money was tight, he "continued his scientific and mechanical work, with designs for screws, drills, mills, and machines for waterworks." (p. 148) Eventually Leonardo got tired of Florence and decided to apply to the Duke of Milan for work. He wrote a letter to the duke suggesting his defensive plans could be a help to him, packed his belongings, some of his favorite drawings, and his prized silver lyre. With only a few coins to his name he started out on the two hundred mile journey that would take him to his next adventure.
For the next chapter in Leonardo's life, you'll have to read Leonardo: Masterpieces in Milan. If you wish to enter the drawing for this book, please leave me a comment by 6 PM July 1, 2017. Make sure you leave your email address if I don't have it. Follow my blog or share this on social media and I'll enter your name twice; just make sure you tell me what you do.

You might also want to check out Catherine's overview of Da Vinci's life in her book, Leonardo Da Vinci: His Life and His Legacy.
Profile Image for Elena Alvarez Dosil.
731 reviews11 followers
July 28, 2017
Review originally published at: http://www.lomeraniel.com/audiobookre...

The book is a novelization of the eighteen years Leonardo da Vinci t spent in Florence, learning from his master Verrocchio. It does not go much into depth and it merely follows the historical information we have about Leonardo. 

Do not expect to find a long and fictionalized novella with very well developed characters. This book is intended as a way to show young students and any with a curious mind, how Leonardo da Vinci's first years as an apprentice and an artist were. 

I did not fully enjoy David Winograd's narration. I have to say that his patronizing tone was adequate to the text but the fact that he read the book like he was doing it for children did not completely convince me, since I think this book could also be enjoyed by adults with a curious mind.

I think this book serves its purpose quite well, since it is quite clear and concise. If you want to know more about how Leonardo started, this book is for you. If you want a longer story with more developed characters and fictionalized facts, you may want to check a different book.

I received a copy of this book in audio format from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lori.
254 reviews
May 21, 2017
I was disappointed in this book in the beginning because the wording seemed juvenile and the narration was incredibly slow. It did improve. The story became interesting and the wording less juvenile. After reading the authors comments about what was historical and what was fiction, I found the things I found most interesting were less historical and more fiction which is fine as it is historical fiction. I definitely appreciate it when an author clearly defines where they took liberties.

Even though I became interested in the story it had little to do with Leonardo. I didn't cared about him. I was as disconnected from the main character as he was disconnected from all the people he knew and his work.

2 stars because the opening writing style was very juvenile ( 1 star) and even though it did improve the book was not long enough for the beginning to be forgotten. Unfortunately, after I became interested in the story (2 stars-it was okay I was starting to like it) it disappointingly ended to soon (2 stars overall).

I want to thank the author for the free audio book.

Profile Image for Sabrina.
1,277 reviews27 followers
August 12, 2017
Leonardo da Vinci's young life from his own point of view, starting with his first day as an apprentice in Florence. The story is based in true history though I don't know how much is completely accurate. I enjoyed reading about Leonardo's path to fame and thought the relationship between Leonardo and Lorenzo Medici was intriguing.
I found the reading was too slow for my liking which made it harder to follow and did bring much excitement even to the action scenes.
I received this audiobook at no-cost from Audiobookworm Promotions. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
Profile Image for Emily Ross.
1,085 reviews24 followers
May 11, 2017
I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

This was a good book, even though it felt like more of a biography than a historical fiction novel. It was difficult to connect to the people; ie. Leonardo barely talks to one of his friends and instead of feeling sad for him, I just didn't care. It was not an emotionally captivating novel. On the other hand, the historical aspects were fascinating! Learning about Leonardo's early life, the strains between him and his father and his apprenticeship was very interesting.
Profile Image for Leslie Fisher.
797 reviews17 followers
May 12, 2017
I really enjoyed this book, which I got in exchange for my honest review. Leonardo DaVinci has always fascinated me, so learning about his early life and influence really appealed to me. The book is written well in an easy-t0-understand and family-friendly format. After finishing listening to it, I thought I might have my 6- and 7-year-old listen to it, since they have studied him in school. I think this book can be enjoyed by any age. I also thought the narrator did a good job. I'm really looking forward to the next book in the series.
665 reviews8 followers
July 23, 2017
This is the story of Leonardo da Vinci's early life, while this story flows like any novel it is based on known history. A truly entertaining way to learn about Leonardo I can't wait for the next book so I can learn more about his life.

The level of detail in this book brings the story to life and shows that significant research must have been done by the author.

The narration is well done, it flows naturally and most of the characters voices are distinctive and consistent.

This book was supplied free by the author/narrator/publisher and I voluntarily wrote this honest review.
Profile Image for Kasia Burlakoff.
164 reviews12 followers
September 6, 2017
A very enjoyable story about young Leonardo meeting Lorenzo, which culminated in creating some of the best artwork of the Renaissance era. Leonardo's thirst for knowledge, quickly recognized and encouraged by Lorenzo drove him to become one of the most enlightened minds of his times.

I loved the relationship between Lorenzo and other apprentices in Master Verrocchio's workshop. The country boy discovers the treasures of Florence, visiting some of it most famous edifices. A touch of politics adds some suspense to the story, but it's not fully developed
Profile Image for Heather C.
492 reviews80 followers
December 6, 2017
I love that this book introduces a younger audience to the world of Renaissance Italy and a younger Leonardo da Vinci when he was apprenticed to the great Verrocchio. First of all, this is not a da Vinci that many adult novels even explore and novels that explore the life of an apprentice in an art studio are few and far between. Jaime does a fabulous job of creating a breathing world of Florence that feels real. Young Leonardo in his role as an apprentice to Verrocchio is able to be all over Florence and explore so many different areas of the world it is believable that he could experience all these different areas of Renaissance life. The novel touches on politics, humanism, art, architecture, and more in ways that are accessible to a younger audience, but also adults that are not familiar with that time and place. It can certainly be enjoyed by both age audiences. There were times where the novel occasionally felt dense. There was a lot of information that the author offers and it sometimes slowed down the pace of the plot. I do think that this will make a fascinating series for young readers, I just hope that the plot moves a little faster and doesn’t get weighed down by the details.

Audiobook discussion:
It took a lot of getting used to this narrator to become comfortable with him. He has a sort of strange cadence to his speech. That being said, however, he has a very steady pacing to his narration. For an adult, it might feel a touch on the slower side, but as this is aimed at a younger audience, the pacing might be proper so that they can digest all the information presented. I am unsure if this pacing might contribute to my feeling of the text being slightly dense.

This review was previously posted on The Maiden's Court blog and a copy of the audiobook was received for review consideration.
Profile Image for Sandi Hemming.
64 reviews3 followers
May 10, 2017
I felt like I was back in grade-school, listening to my teacher read after lunch...and I mean that in the nicest way possible! This was a good story! Give it a couple of hours and enjoy a delightful transport back in time as you think about what little things happens in a life that lead to greatness! I look forward to more Leonardo stories...
Profile Image for Deedra.
3,780 reviews20 followers
July 6, 2017
This was a good story about Leonardo growing up and into the man he was.I thought it was aimed more towards children, but I could be wrong.David Winograd was a wonderful narrator.I was provided this book by the author, narrator or publisher.
Profile Image for Kristina.
55 reviews12 followers
January 27, 2011
Read the full review at Frazzled Book Nommer.

This story felt more like a biography in the way that it was written. The voice felt distant, as if we were just reading about Leonardo. There were hardly any feelings involved and I just didn’t connect with the characters on any level. Compared to other historical fiction I’ve read, this just felt like a slightly altered biography. The history, naturally, was my favorite part of the novel.

Reading about Leonardo, however, was absolutely riveting. Not that he did much that exciting, but to see his (historically correct) upbringing was fascinating to me. I enjoy reading stories about where people have come from – especially ones where a person goes from rags to riches (well, so to speak). The story goes from when Leonardo is first apprenticed to when he heads to Milan. There wasn’t much that drove the story forward, to be honest, so that also reinforced my feeling of how this felt more like a biography. Some events were created, but most of it was historically correct. But nevertheless, I loved the descriptions of Florence and the history behind the Medici family.

The one thing that bothered me about this novel, however, was the passage of time. There was almost a reiteration of “Leonardo learned a lot during those months; he was enthralled with learning and absorbed anything he could be taught like a sponge. He was kept busy with a lot of projects. Months later...”. That’s a huge paraphrase, but a variation of passing the time like this was used at least 4 or 5 times.

One thing I thought was cool, however, was the incorporation of actual drawings and sketches Leonardo made inside the book. The chapters would open up with a sketch of Leonardo’s landscape drawing around Florence, and there was a map of Florence at the time Leonardo lived there. And lastly, there was also a timeline for Leonardo’s early life located at the back of the book that was awesome to reference.

Overall, this story was more like a retelling of history (with some variations) than anything else. The most interesting part about the novel was that it was historically correct. However, there wasn’t much that drove the story forward, which made it seem like a retelling of someone’s life, and the middle got a bit slow. Would I recommend this book? Yes, especially if you love history. I can't wait to see where Catherine takes the story in her future novels.
Profile Image for Maxine Mathew.
91 reviews
December 3, 2013
This novel explores Leonardo da Vinci’s years of apprenticeship under Verrocchio before he rose to fame and the world hailed him as one of the greatest artists and inventors of his time. It also portrays Leonardo’s involvement with the royal family of the Republic Of Florence and explores the mystery behind the uncompleted Pitti Palace and the plot to assassinate the Medici brothers. Leonardo the Florentine is a compelling account of how Da Vinci evolved into a great artist and weaved into it is the history and politics of Florence.

Catherine McGrew Jaime captures the attention of the reader from the very first page of the novel and holds onto it till the very end. Though this book is supposed to give a historical account about the years of apprenticeship of the Leonardo da Vinci it does not let you get bored or overloaded with information due to the fact that it is written in a story form which keeps you engaged all along. It gives an enlightening insight into the inquisitive and genius mind of the enigmatic Leonardo da Vinci. The novel is not only about Leonardo but also about the assassination attempt on the Medici brother and about the conspiracy to overthrow the royal family which makes the novel all the more exciting. The informative dateline given at the end of the book piques the reader’s curiosity to know even more about the great personality. Though the novel tends to get a bit slow in the middle but, the author makes up for it by the thrilling end. Written in a way that makes this novel accessible to all age groups, this book is informative as well as enjoyable to read.

Favourite Quote:
“….. You may come and visit the gardens any time you wish. Like the books in Lorenzo’s library, my flowers seem underappreciated.”

An exciting and informative book

Yes, to people who like historical fiction and also to those who love and idolise Leonardo da Vinci.
Profile Image for Michelle.
Author 41 books402 followers
September 27, 2011
Leonardo the Florentine is the story of Da Vinci's early years as an apprentice to an artist/sculptor Verrochio. The story was well-written and set up more like a novel than a history lesson. I can see this being useful to home school parents who want decent stories for Middle grade students that reflect real history but are family friendly at the same time.

The plot was fairly interesting and the author did a good job placing the reader in the setting. I enjoyed the political aspects of the novel. Having recently read a novel about Catherine de Medici, this story was even more interesting to me because the Medicis were a major focus in this novel as well as Leonardo Da Vinci's life.

Political unrest was highlighted just like it happened in Italian history. In some ways the various families fighting each other from different cities reminded me of a modern day mafia-type situation. I find it intriguing how similar situations happened centuries ago (such as certain families wanted to rule and dominate certain areas or cities.) But that's an aside. Overall this was a rewarding read.
Profile Image for MaryAnn Bernal.
Author 28 books98 followers
August 13, 2011
Leonardo the Florentine is a delightful story about Leonardo da Vinci and the time he spent in the city of Florence, as an apprentice to one of the very successful artists of the time, the great Master Verrocchio (Andrea di Cione).

The author delves into the teenage years of the young Leonardo, and describes his relationships with his master and peers, and also his association with the powerful Lorenzo de Medici.

The story transports the modern reader back to the glorious days of the renaissance, when wealthy patrons supported artists and scholars amid the political intrigue as rival families sought to eliminate Medici dominance.

The author concludes the adventure when Leonardo leaves Florence to seek his fortune in Milan. The book is enjoyable and informative, and I look forward to reading the next story in the series.
Profile Image for Betty.
15 reviews
November 12, 2015
This book is geared more for middle to high level and would serve as an excellent interlude from the usual text when studying renaissance period history. The book is actually written like a novel, covering many hostorical periods and events within that timeframe, while developing Young Leonardo's life.
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