"This is Gartner's finest, most nuanced book in the series, and literally EVERYTHING is at stake here. It's the kind of story that can be enjoyed by younger readers looking for an exciting read or deeper thinkers who love to ponder the intricacies of time travel and the hidden histories we aren't taught in school." Shawn P., Goodreads
"His method was rooted in experiment, curiosity, and the ability to marvel at phenomena that the rest of us rarely pause to ponder after we’ve outgrown our wonder years." -Walter Isaacson, Leonardo da Vinci
Describe the tongue of a woodpecker. Isaacson calls out this line from one of Leonardo’s journals, jotted among other items like a to-do list. That sense of unending curiosity is a big part of why “Leonardo da Vinci” has grown to mythic proportions. Of course, he was a gifted artist as well, no doubt, but the reason his persona has intrigued so many was precisely because of the variety of subjects he explored, and the depths to which he went. He uncovered some concepts that wouldn’t be discovered again until centuries later. He dissected bodies, pontificated on how to drain swamps, drew schematics for giant weapons of war, and was constantly in search of knowledge through firsthand experience.
As I was reading this biographical tome, it occurred to me that maybe that’s a great way to describe middle grade writers—that we haven’t outgrown our wonder years. I know I am constantly playing “What If” games with my own two sons. Imagination Land, where anything can happen.
“What if you could fly safely into the big storm on Jupiter?”
“What if you met Imhotep, the architect of the world’s first pyramid tomb?”
“What if you were caught in a gladiator arena?”
“What if you were there to help build the underground caves below the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan?”
“What if you could slow time?”
That last one is a perennial classic, but, I think often, as adults, we chuckle and dismiss the idea with something trite like “Yep, that’d be cool.” But we don’t really let our imagination fold into that possibility. We don’t set our expectations for a firm reality aside and really get sucked into a world where, yes, you could actually slow down time. What would you do with that power?
I know we are all busy. But I encourage you to take a few minutes, right now, and ponder something seemingly trivial, or seemingly too grand, something like what the tongue of a woodpecker might look like. Or what will happen in five billion years when the Andromeda galaxy collides with our Milky Way. Or just contemplate some other wonder, like how magnificent it is that a wave through the air can push on tiny hairs in your ear canal, triggering the neurochemical reaction we call “sound.”
Of course, your mind will drift back to the things you have to do today. But, just don’t forget to make a little space for wonder every day.
The city sparkled and spread out with a much bigger footprint than John had imagined. He’d heard of the famed city of the Aztec, but he’d always pictured something . . . smaller. This was a regular metropolis, with suburbs and floating islands and multiple huge temples. Canoes drifted on canals like the pictures he’d seen of Venice in Italy, though these canoes were loaded with goods headed to market. Farther out into the lake, men cast nets and brought up flopping silver fish, their scales sparkling in the sun.
“For our drinking water,” Ome said.