Frank Viva

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Young Frank, Architect by Frank Viva

MoMA’s first storybook for kids ages three to eight, follows the adventures of Young Frank, a resourceful young architect who lives in New York City with his grandfather, Old Frank, who is also an architect. Young Frank sees creative possibilities everywhere, and likes to use anything he can get his hands on—macaroni, old boxes, spoons, and sometimes even his dog, Eddie—to creates things like chairs out of toilet paper rolls and twisting skyscrapers made up of his grandfather’s books. But Old Frank is skeptical; he doesn’t think that’s how REAL architects make things.

“When I was a student, I delivered seltzer to the Upper West Side. My route included some of those really nice buildings that line the park—the Dakota and the like. After loading the van in Brooklyn with wooden crates—they were full of these thick, antique-from-the-nineteen-thirties seltzer bottles and weighed something like eighty pounds—I had to go do my route. My favorite part was always being at the door and peering into these apartments. Beyond the living room, you could see the terraces and they just looked like such wonderful places.…I always wondered what it would be like to stand on those terraces or, you know, just sit and have breakfast there.” — Frank Viva, this week’s cover artist


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Our new 2015 Artcards are up on subways and buses! Artist Frank Viva features the ins and outs of New York’s transit system. Celebrating the people who make up our city, Viva depicts a wide variety of straphangers riding the subway and buses while local landmarks, historic buildings and snippets of nature roll by outside, reminding us of all the incredible places that mass transit can take you. 

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I reviewed three books for Shelf Awareness’s holiday gift guide this year, and between the three of them, they cover about 80% of any gift-giving you may need to do for children in your life (assuming child in question already has The Phantom Tollbooth, which should always be the first gift given to any child who you wish to be a good citizen of the planet). For your consideration:

Young Frank, Architect by Frank Viva: It may be coincidence that many famous architects have been named Frank–Gehry, Lloyd Wright–but to that list we can now add Young Frank and Old Frank, at the heart of this delightful picture book. Young Frank’s expansive view of architecture includes whole cities and chairs, and his grandfather Old Frank insists that architects design single buildings and nothing else. After they visit the Museum of Modern Art and see that both are correct, they return home and make a bit of everything–even a chair for their dog, Eddie. Viva’s (Along a Long Road) lively art style makes a perfect match for the classics of architecture; his crisp lines and distinct palette will keep even the youngest readers engaged. Most importantly, the creativity of Old Frank and Young Frank is infectious, and will inspire kids to build their own towers and creations. Have empty boxes at the ready!

Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington: “I was only two when my mother filled the kitchen sink with water and tried to drown me,” begins the second chapter, and the voice of 12-year-old narrator Sarah Nelson grows only stronger. Sarah and her father have spent the past 10 years moving around and avoiding recognition. But this fateful summer, they’re staying put. As she finally tries to figure out the truth about her family, gets a crush and, most importantly, starts to decide who she wants to be, Sarah confides in her diaries and letters to her beloved Atticus Finch. This is not easy subject matter, but Sarah’s brave and genuine voice allows readers to live the rough patches of her summer alongside her. Karen Harrington’s (Janeology) funny, thoughtful writing softens the gravity of the material. Younger readers may not be ready for some of the situations Sarah faces, but those who are will find their hearts permanently changed by this beautiful book.

September Girls by Bennett Madison: Most people would prefer not to know anything about a teenage boy’s thoughts regarding gorgeous girls at the beach, but in this fantastic YA novel, those thoughts are irresistible. At first the premise of the book seems like a dream of the narrator, teenage Sam; when he goes with his brother and father to the beach, every beautiful blonde girl down the shore–and there are a lot of them–seems interested in him. But when it becomes clear that he’s not insane, it also becomes clear that there is much more to these girls than long hair and fun parties–something otherworldly. Madison’s writing is somehow both dreamy and razor-sharp, like the ocean that laps quietly in the background. Teens and adults alike will be spooked and intrigued in equal parts as the book works toward an ending as satisfying and heartbreaking as the end of a sleepy summer.

My latest interview in the American Illustration Profiles series is with Frank Viva, who has illustrated 10 covers of The New Yorker over the past five years, and also released a stunning series of children’s books. He has a great retro-modern style that is a fun, surreal almost cartoonish look, like a 21st Century fusion of the jazz LP covers of Jim Flora and Gerald McBoing-Boing cartoons.

“I like the idea of the Olympics because it’s such an international event,” says Frank Viva à propos of his cover for this week’s New Yorker. He continues: “And I like the contrast between the acrobatic delicacy of the tiny gymnasts and the bulkiness of the gigantic weightlifters. There’s a kind of hopefulness around the Olympics—that you can fiercely compete and still be civilized.“

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Written and illustrated by Toronto based artist, designer and now author Frank Viva. This is Frank’s first venture into the wonderful world of children’s books, with hopefully many more to come. We were first drawn in by the bold colors, and striking design and rewarded with the simple and engaging story within. Frank is known previously for having done Illustration work for heavy weights: The New York times, and The New Yorker, but works as a full time graphic designer at his branding and design agencyViva & Co.

Make sure to visit your local bookstore and pick up your own copy of “Along a long road ” you wont be disappointed.

“In rounding up what we think are the best picture books of the year and discussing them through a Caldecott committee lens, it can be easy to assume that we are looking for the best picture books of the year, period. But we’re not really, because the Medal can’t go to an illustrator who isn’t resident in the U.S. or to a book that was published outside the U.S.

But we’re NOT the Caldecott committee, so I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss two books the committee won’t be allowed to mention but that might have a chance if not for, as Gilbert & Sullivan would say, an accident of birth.”

(click the picture to read the entire post)