Twelve-year-old Agnès lives alone, awaiting her father’s return from across the sea. After a chance encounter with an ageing artist and inventor, she learns of his plan to build a flying machine, and resolves to help him achieve it.
The prologue opens with one of the Birdman’s early attempts at flight from a Florentine hilltop in 1505. Along with his apprentice, Francesco Melzi, he climbs to the top of Swan Mountain quarry in Tuscany. On his Master’s command, the young boy leaps from the rocky outcrop with disastrous consequences.
Fourteen years later, in the marketplace at Amboise in France, Agnès is doing her best to evade Marshall Lupus, the town thief-catcher. After stealing a nobleman’s ruby cloak pin, she hides in an alleyway. From her thief-hole, she watches with intrigue as an old white-bearded stranger and his companion buy a songbird and set it free.
As the story unfolds, Agnès discovers the old man’s workshop within the grounds of a large manor house, where she stumbles on his latest half-built flying machine.
This is a story for anyone who dreams big. Agnès is a girl with grit and determination who battles against the odds to achieve something truly great. In doing so, she and her friend Pepin learn much about life and love, and what really matters. It is a story about not giving up.
Many of the characters are based on real people, including Leonardo, Melzi, King Francis, Queen Claude, Anne Boleyn and Maturina the housekeeper. There is a section in the back of the book with factual information about them all.
Listen to the Prologue – Read by Robin Dick
This First Edition was published by Green Ginger Press in 2019 to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo Da Vinci.
Barry Cunningham OBE – Publisher of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
It’s rare that imaginative historical fiction for children can take off with such power and passion as this – Agnes is a wonderful character and I was deeply engaged in her story.
This book was bought for my 10 year old granddaughter at Christmas. She absolutely loved it, it has a fantastic story line. A great book.
Thrilling and exciting, you never know what’s going to happen next. I would recommend this book to anyone. Personally I think it is the best book I have read. I think it is a great way to mark 500 years since Leonardo Da Vinci came to his death. He must have been a wonderful person.
Lilly – 8 Years old
I really loved this book. I loved this book because it made me love reading even more than I did before I started reading it and I used to love reading a lot! I read this book every night until I was so tired that I could not keep my eyes open. When I was done reading this book I was very sad that it was over.
I’m in the middle of reading Agnes and the Birdman. So far It’s amazing. I can tell already that I will be needing a sequel.
I really enjoyed the book. It is very detailed and realistic. While I was reading this book I could picture the entire thing in my head. I love this book. It is now one of my favourites. I loved the part when Agnes rebuilt the flying machine and it flew! I hope you make more of these amazing books.
What started with an interest in the language and culture described became a connection to the protagonist – a young girl named Agnes, struggling to find her way in a harsh world. I love dreams and this story is full of them. Set against a backdrop of set backs and unexpected paths, perseverance , friendship and hope shines through. Being part of something bigger than ourselves changes us. It left me wishing it were 100% percent real. Magical. If children read these kind of adventures they will be entertained and enriched.
I loved this book! What a great story!
Gervase Phinn – Author and Educator
I very much enjoyed the story. It was a captivating tale, well-researched, full of interesting characters and entertaining incidents. There was real pace to the story.
Trollope (my favourite writer) said all good novels should have an angel and a devil. I warmed to little Agnes and found the dark and brooding Marshal Lupus a wonderful villain. It is a cracking good read.
I’ve finished Agnes and absolutely loved it. It made me cry at the end. (Always the sign of a great book for me) It is a wonderful story of courage, friendship, heartbreak, resilience, and survival against all odds. I fell in love with the character of Agnes right from the start of the novel, and was rooting for her throughout. I am hoping she goes on to have many more amazing adventures.
Loved this historical fiction novel – my grandchildren did too! A fun and educational journey to another place and time. No generation gaps here as we learn how both young and old can help each other, learn from each other and find success together.
Sarah Firm – All Saints School, York
Stephen led a brilliant workshop on Agnes and the Birdman for All Saints’ Library. Students were tantalised by his display of objects, particularly the model of a mysterious flying machine hanging above them. As an experienced teacher, Stephen knew exactly how to pitch the session for years 7-9. After an engaging reading, he explained his sources of inspiration utilising his intriguing objects. Students were spellbound and particularly valued the opportunity to ask him questions. A testament to the power of the visit is that our 6 copies of the book are all checked out with a waiting list (several months later). In particular I saw a significant interest in reading kindled in our year 7 boys. Students loved the character of Agnes, who is intelligent, resilient, courageous and loyal. Her character and story are so compelling, I found myself totally engrossed, willing her to succeed. The powerful message I got from the book is to keep trying no matter what obstacles you face.
Liv – Woodthorpe School – Having the author in to read his own work was inspiring and really interesting to listen to how he told his story. The first chapter of the book is really gripping, I couldn’t wait to read the rest of it!
Collette Young – Osbaldwick Primary Academy
Stephen Munzer provided the class with a wonderful introduction to his book, Agnes & the Birdman. They were fascinated by the lovely model of the flying machine that he brought and the inclusion of role play went down really well. Stephen related to the children very well and they were engaged for the whole session. It was great for the children to be introduced to such a wonderful historical character as many of them were not familiar with Leonardo. It provided me with an opportunity to discuss the artistic side of the man and promote figure drawing. The book is well pitched for Y5 to Y8 and contains lots of good vocabulary to stimulate writing. The themes of perseverance, imagination, bravery and young and old working together all seemed relevant plus it’s always good to discover a strong female character.