As someone who works in children’s publishing and has been collecting picture books for over a decade, there is no higher praise I can give author/illustrator Frank Viva than to note that even with only three picture books to his name so far, anything he publishes has become a must-have for my personal collection.
So it was no big surprise that it was love at first sight when I saw Viva’s latest, A Long Way Away, a strikingly simple but moving story (no pun intended), laid out in an unusual format (with the spine on top and the book opening vertically) that can be read two ways, top-to-bottom or bottom-to-top. Each direction follows a voyage—from the stars to the bottom of the sea or vice-versa—and although there is adventure inherent in every page, the spare text (only a few words on every page) is beautifully quiet and peaceful, each word clearly chosen with care, making it the perfect bedtime story for settling in at night.
As always, Viva’s illustrations are distinctive, his style immediately recognizable. Stark, clean shapes and primary blue-red-yellow colours against black and a soft off-white, give the book a retro-modern look that will appeal to parents with a love of great design, but is also incredibly child-friendly.