Sometimes a book comes along that really just takes my breath away. Occasionally I’m prepared for it because it has intrigued me in some way by the reviews I’ve heard. Other times, I just feel my heart skip a little when I spy the cover. I open it wonderingly and wow, there it is. Such was the case with today’s book. Here is Along a Long Road by Frank Viva, 2011.
Something that really won me over immediately about this book is the uncoated paper stock. That may not mean much to your average-joe-reader; but this former graphic designer is a frequent swooner of the ink-soaking, not-a-glare-in-sight uncoated paper. The colors on this paper are deep and rich. The paper completely absorbs the ink and breathes the color out.
On second glance, I realized that not only was it uncoated; but there is a spot varnish on the gold road. Gasp! This means that the gold road has a shine to it caused by a subtle gloss layer on top; and if you run your finger along the page, you not only see the road, but can feel it! Spectacular.
So, these facts made the book nerd that I am immediately scan the publication blurb at the beginning. This is when I discovered the really unique aspect about this beauty: “The book was created as a single, continuous thirty-five-foot-long piece of art using Adobe Illustrator.” If that doesn’t sound incredible, let me bring in the reality of it. This means that you can follow the gold road from cover to cover (including the end pages!) and it is indeed one long road. It was created to flow all the way through without breaking and then (no spoilers intended) loop back around to do again. What genius!
Now that I’ve completely nerded-out about the creation of the book, let me introduce you to the book itself. It all begins, you guessed it, “Along a long road.”
The book is a very simple story about a rider on his bicycle as he travels along that single road, up and down, into a tunnel, around and through towns, hitting a few occasional bumps, slowing, going faster, over a bridge and more.
The text is cleverly simple and can be read at whatever pace you feel the rider should be going. My poor rider was very slow at first as I couldn’t resist stopping and staring at everything he passed. But on the next ride through, I allowed him to pick up the pace a bit so I could get the full affect.
The art of this book is splendid in its raw, graphic form. Creator Frank Viva happens to be an illustrator turned graphic designer whose signature illustration style can be seen in incredible places like on the covers of The New Yorker. The jacket flap of the book details how Mr. Viva has cycled the streets of New York, India, Ireland, and more. Apparently an avid biker himself, it is wonderful how he so genuinely captured the feel of biking in his debut children’s book. The simple shape of his (spineless?) biker adds immensely to the feel of a windy, curvy rode and the feel of zooming along.
I’m also deeply enamored with his limited, yet saturated color palette. The book feels incredibly modern and a bit shocking as well, considering most people would create a book about cycling that was earth tones, or at least had a lot of green. I love his bold choices and will be treasuring this beauty for a long time. Now, if only spring would hurry up so I can take a long bike ride myself!