Cleonardo: The Little Inventor


If you’ve read any of the Harry Potter books, then you know (and probably adore) Mary GrandPré’s art. She provided the cover and interior art for all of the original U.S. editions. And if we’re being honest, her cover art is a really big reason for why the first book became so popular.

But she’s so much more than her Harry Potter art. She’s written and illustrated several children’s books and received a Caldecott Honor in 2015 for The Noisy Paint Box, which is about Kandinsky’s synesthesia (a condition that has long fascinated me).

Her newest book, Cleonardo: The Little Inventor, is nothing short of gorgeous – both the art and the message. As the father of a young daughter who loves to tinker and experiment, this book resonated with me in a huge way.


Cleonardo comes from a long line of inventors. Her father (Geonardo) and grandfather (Leonardo) are both known for their incredible inventions, and young Cleonardo Wren is also filled with great ideas. However, even though she’s bursting at the seams with ideas for amazing inventions, her father never seems to want her help. He’s always too busy with his own inventions and work.

Encouraged by her grandfather to go ahead and make her inventions a reality, Cleonardo puts all of her energy into making something truly impressive for the town’s annual Grand Festival of Inventions. She doesn’t want her creation (or herself) to be seen as a mere small toy, so she strives to make something “big and important.”

Like her invention, she also wants to be taken seriously – by both the townspeople and her father. She can be important too. But size isn’t everything. Even the littlest invention can be powerful and important when its time comes. As can the youngest member of the family.

Unfortunately, I find Geonardo’s situation to be all-too relatable. I often find myself overwhelmed with work and overlooking the attention and contributions my children are so eager to give. Size isn’t everything, and sooner or later, the “little inventors” in all of our lives will grow up and not be so little anymore.

Why wait until then to work side by side? There’s no time like right now.

Beyond the book’s theme, GrandPré’s illustrations here are gorgeous. I’d happily hang any one of these pages on the wall. Simply stunning. Cleonardo comes with our highest recommendation.


(Disclosure: Scholastic provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire,, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.