Along a Long Road
Written and illustrated by Frank Viva, HarperCollins, 36 pages, $19.99, all ages
An illustrator and graphic designer of considerable renown in this country and elsewhere – he has several New Yorker magazine covers to his credit – Frank Viva has entered new territory via his first book for children. It would be a shame, though, to limit the readership of Along a Long Road; it will appeal to any and all whose eyes (and minds) light up when visual pleasures, not to mention the call of the open road, beckon.
The titular long road is a chrome yellow line that, widening and narrowing, threads its way through the pages of this book from one end to the other. It's the road, the road taken, if you will, by a long noodle of a man, folded in two over the handlebars on his equally attenuated bicycle. The description of his ride is bare-bones minimal, amounting to a word or phrase captioning each double-page spread: "Along a long road … going up … around a small town and down … into a tunnel … and out … over a bridge …"
Through a town, a city and countryside in between, round a bay, up and down, over and under, stopped by a bump in the road and starting up again, the cyclist rides a great loop, coming back to where he started, ready to "start all over again." And after that exhilarating ride, we're just as keen as he is to start all over again. This time, we'll fully appreciate the graphic qualities of this tour de force, the eye-appealing colour palette of slate blue, tomato red, black, white and yellow, and we'll note the gentle visual witticisms along the way.