Letters to Leonardo – Dee White


The truth changes everything.

Dear Leonardo,

Truth is important in art, don’t you think?

Truth is important full stop.


It’s Matt Hudson’s fifteenth birthday and all he wants is some art lessons. Instead, he gets a card from his dead mother. How can someone who died ten years ago send you a card?

Simple answer – they can’t.

This awful truth changes Matt’s life forever.

On the morning of your fifteenth birthday you think it would be a happy situation and a reason to celebrate. Not for Matt Hudson. For Matt, it’s the 10th reminder that his mother isn’t here to wish him a happy birthday, that it’s just him and his father, Dave, who will probably not even remember and will make up for it with pizza for dinner.

Or that’s how Matt thought it would go.

He wasn’t expecting a card. Especially a card from his mother that is supposed to be dead. Suddenly Matt’s world is turned upside down. Was it just his imagination? Someone’s idea of a practical joke? For Matt can find no record of her anywhere. Relatives refuse to talk about her, no records of any kind linked to the name and a search on Google doesn’t even bring up anything with her name. After all, Zara Templeton isn’t exactly a common name.

Except for a bible found in his Dad’s draw with her name on it, Zara has all but disappeared.

Yet as Matt digs deeper, there are records of Zara. Except she calls herself Zora now. There are mentions of her as an artist. Matt even sees one of her paintings and knows for sure that this has to be his mother. For where else would he have got his talent and interest in art except from his mother?

As Matt discovers more, the anger in him builds. Anger at being lied to for 10 years of his life. Anger at events that took his mother out of his life, but above all, anger at his father for pretending like nothing is wrong, that he hasn’t just created one big lie. For what could make a father lie to his son about his mother?

Dave had his reasons. For Zora would abandon Matt as a child – leave him in shopping centers and home alone for days on end. Zora suffers from bipolar. And she refuses to take medication on the basis that it limits her creative ability.

At first Matt doesn’t believe him. And as events get more and more out of control, risking everything and everyone he loves, Matt comes to realise that maybe his father was right. But will Matt understand before he loses the one person who has stuck by him through thick and thin?

Letters to Leonardo is the moving story of how one family comes to terms with the biggest changes in their life and how it affects both them and those around them. Dee White’s debut novel is oddly compelling and real. The voice of Matt is so strong and true that you feel the confusion and the indecision that Matt feels, and his struggle to understand and deal with the events that has unfolded in his life. White provides an inside into a topic that isn’t often spoken about in ways that can be identified with and understood.

Pages: 246

Publication date: 2009


Teaser quote: You were little. It was for your own good. I had to protect you…

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