CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 30 . . . . April 5, 2013
In 2011, Frank Viva was a finalist for Canada's prestigious Governor General's Literary Award for Illustration with his book, Along A Long Road. His latest offering is A Long Way Away. It is an inventive, imaginative reversible book-that is, it can be read in sequence beginning at either cover. Depending upon the place where one starts, the book is about an underwater being that leaves the ocean and explores the sky before finding a new home in outer space. If one should start at the other end, the book is about an alien who travels downward and eventually settles in a new underwater location.
Viva's work is highly innovative. As contradictory as it might seem to say, at the same time that the illustrations are generally understated in style, they are also bold and dynamic. An egg-shell or off-white shade is combined with black and the primary colours-blue, yellow, and red-for all of the artwork. Movement flows through the circular and swirling shapes of the art and the careful placement of the text, suggesting the journey being undertaken by the protagonist.
The word choices are concise and evocative and equally suggestive of movement-around, turned, zooming, "this away that away". At first read, it all seems so simple but the more one looks, the more it can be seen that the appealing simplicity is actually born of complex and highly developed creative abilities.
The artwork for A Long Way Away was initially constructed by Viva using Adobe Illustrator as one continuous piece (and then subsequently divided into the various pages of the book). The original work was a vertical work of art 26 feet high (almost 8 metres). This single-piece continuity adds to the effectiveness of a clever book by an imaginative artist.
Gregory Bryan is a professor of literacy education and children's literature in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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