Stone Giant book cover image

Stone Giant
Michelangelo's David and How He Came to Be

  • 1695

By: Jane Sutcliffe / Illustrated by: John Shelley

Michelangelo saw something—someone—special in the stone.

No one wanted the “giant.” The hulking block of marble lay in the work yard, rained on, hacked at, and abandoned—until a young Michelangelo saw his David in it.

This is the story of how a neglected, discarded stone became a masterpiece for all time. It is also a story of how humans see themselves reflected in art.

Back matter includes further information about David and a selected bibliography

Watch the Trailer:

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Jane Sutcliffe, author

Jane Sutcliffe was born in Providence, RI, in the days when library fines were a penny. One of her earliest memories was her weekly trip to the local library with her father. She has loved books ever since.

Jane’s childhood was fairly average. In fact, it was so average that all of her friends had pretty much the same childhood. They all went to the same school and attended the same church on Sundays. Their mothers all called them home to supper at the same time. Jane began to read biographies, just to get a peek at how other people lived day to day, in different times and places. When she was 10 or 11, she spent a whole year reading nothing but biographies.

Read more about Jane.

John Shelley, illustrator

John Shelley was born in Birmingham, UK and grew up in Sutton Coldfield. He studied at Bournville School of Art, then illustration at Manchester Polytechnic under children's illustrator Tony Ross.

From 1983 he began working as a freelance illustrator in London, and by 1984 had co-founded the artist's collective Facade Studios with designer Andy Royston and illustrators Jane Ray and Willie Ryan. At the same time his interest in Ukiyo-e woodblock prints attracted him towards Japan. In 1987 he moved to Tokyo in search of the missing link between samurai and Sony, making it his home for the following 21 years.

Read more about John.

Awards & Honors:

  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

Sutcliffe makes a big impression with this handsome introduction to one of Western civilization's most iconic sculptures.

When the young artist was summoned from Rome back to his native Florence, he was commissioned to take on a work of heroic proportions. This sculpture of the Old Testament hero David was to symbolize Florentine strength and civic virtue. Michelangelo requested "the giant"--an immense block of creamy marble that had been languishing for over 40 years. Sutcliffe limns the lively details of this multiyear project, and her tale of Michelangelo's talent and industry is considerably enhanced by the thoughtful pen, ink and watercolor work of British illustrator Shelley. He makes the finely modeled realism of the statue the real standout here. (Yes, there are a few views of David in full frontal splendor.) Shelley wondrously juxtaposes this cool, nuanced marble hero with a crowded city, brimming with the bright colors and lively action of Renaissance book illuminations. Backmatter includes an author's note and a brief bibliography (mostly adult titles, no online resources). Sadly missing? An artist's note to help curious readers place all the highly researched imagery and background in more complete artistic, historic and geographic context.

Still, this is a handsome offering that helps youngsters understand both an artist's process and how this stunning statue became the enduring symbol of a city and its people.

School Library Journal

Renaissance icon and one of the most towering (in more ways than one) of Western civilization’s artworks gets a humorous but respectful, down-to-earth, and easy-to-understand treatment. Readers learn that the city fathers always intended to have a statue of David carved, as a symbol of the small but powerful city, but that their plan wasn’t so simple. Many earlier attempts had come to naught, with even Leonardo da Vinci passing on the idea. Fortunately for Florence–-and posterity–-Michelangelo was persuaded to return from Rome and began his painstaking sculpting, bringing forth his giant almost three years later, in 1504. This well-written, lively account is graced with excellent illustrations, rendered in pen-and-ink and painted with watercolors, that truly convey a Renaissance Italian flavor; there’s even an image of Michelangelo’s sketches for the statue with a poem he wrote about it. Readers should note that David’s frontal nudity is discreetly concealed for the most part, but there is one scene in which the piece is shown from the front, completely uncovered, and another illustration depicts the statue’s bare backside. A helpful author’s note and bibliography conclude the book, though the note fails to reveal that David is now housed in the Accademia Gallery in Florence, and the bibliography includes mostly outdated resources and none that seem geared to young readers. Highly recommended for all public and school libraries and especially recommended for units on the Italian Renaissance and in art classes in the middle to upper-elementary grades.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

It seemed like a great idea—a massive statue of Biblical giant-slayer David that would grace fifteenth-century central Florence and symbolize her power among surrounding contentious kingdoms. Unfortunately nobody, not even the redoubtable Leonardo, could pull off the project initially, until finally twenty-six-year-old Michelangelo Buonarroti took on the challenge. Sutcliffe presents a streamlined but lively description of the artist's work process, from building a workroom around the enormous slab of abandoned and eroding marble, to Michelangelo's renowned method of chipping away all the "not-David" material until the figure emerged, to the onerous task of hauling and installing the creation in its presumably permanent location. At this point, knowledgeable prospective book purchasers are asking the obvious question: "So, just how much David is on view?" Well, ultimately, all of him. However, Shelley manages to keep the statue under wraps via strategically placed models and scaffolding until the glorious full-frontal reveal, thus also helping to keep the picture-book audience attentive and under control until they share with the Florentines themselves an inevitable gasp of amazement. Figures of Michelangelo and the Florentine citizens are touched with humor, while in contrast the statue retains its gravitas. Text boxes are encased in embellished framing and the city unfolds in the foreshortened perspective of medieval painting. An author's note provides extra information about subsequent alterations to the statue and its eventual removal indoors; a bibliography of adult resources is also included. Every veteran librarian knows what happens when a child with a marker meets a book with a naked guy, so perhaps it's wise to purchase an extra backup copy.


ISBN: 978-1-58089-295-7

ISBN: 978-1-60734-734-7 EPUB
ISBN: 978-1-60734-614-2 PDF
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 6-9
Page count: 32
8 1/2 x 11

Correlated to Common Core State Standards:
Reading Informational. Grade 2. Standards 1-4, 6-8, and 10.
Reading Informational. Grade 3. Standards 1-4, 7, 8, and 10.

If you like this book, you’ll enjoy these:
Vinnie and Abraham
Magic Trash
Monet Paints a Day
The House That George Built