Book: Cleonardo: The Little Inventor
Author: Mary GrandPre
Age Range: 5-9
Cleonardo: The Little Inventor is a lavishly illustrated celebration of both creativity and family. Little Cleonardo is the daughter of Geonardo and granddaughter of Leonardo. She is the youngest in a long line of inventors. But while Geonardo works hammering and welding metals, Cleonardo prefers to work with natural materials like vines and dragonfly wings. Her father, though caring, is a bit dismissive of her efforts, but with Grandpa Leo's support, Cleonardo sets out to make her own invention for a local invention contest. Eventually, Gleonardo and Cleonardo learn that both of their approaches have merit.
Grandpa Leo's name is, of course, a nod to Leonardo da Vinci, but there is no overt discussion of the famed artist and inventor. Rather, Cleonardo focuses primarily on the relationship between inventor father and inventor daughter, as well as their respective projects. My six-year-old was charmed by Cleonardo's efforts, as well as her persistence. We both enjoyed GrandPre's detailed, old-fashioned illustrations, most celebrating Cleonardo's love of the outdoors.
The text in Cleonardo is dense for a picture book, but the story certainly held my daughter's interest. I would recommend it for elementary schoolers, but would expect it to be a bit challenging (in both words and pictures) for preschoolers. Here's a snippet of the text:
"So Cleo Wren decided to make something of her own for the festival. The forest was full of treasures, from golden goo bamboo and tacky termite twine to poofy cloud feathers and glitter-winged butterflies.
With Grandpa Leo's help, she cleaned off a large fallen tree for her worktable. Her grandpa then gave her one of his favorite tools: a twisty, wooden-handled awl."
Lush text, a capable heroine, a mix of science and nature, and strong family relationships. Cleonardo covers a lot of ground, and would make a great addition to an elementary school library. One could pair it with some nonfiction about the real Leonardo, or with other books that celebrate female inventors (like Rosie Revere, Engineer). Safe to say that my science and invention-loving daughter will be reading this one again. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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