Wearing matching bow ties, straw boaters, and Philip Johnson–inspired spectacles, Old Frank and his grandson, Young Frank, debate the definition of architecture. When Young Frank crafts “a chair using toilet paper rolls,” Old Frank argues, “You can’t really sit in this one, can you?” When Young Frank makes “a skyscraper out of books,” Old Frank sputters, “Buildings should be straight.” To sort things out, they head to “the museum” (MoMA, of course) and find a few surprises, including a “wiggly chair designed by an architect named Frank” and a “twisted tower by an architect named Frank.” Since Frank Gehry created his corrugated-cardboard chair in 1972, and Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959, this intergenerational battle is a bit behind the times. Yet Viva (A Long Way Away) revels in midcentury modern styles, picturing his throwback characters and Manhattan cityscapes in wavery ink lines and a muted palette. Besides implying the fading distinctions between architecture and design, Viva sends the Franks home to construct experimental towers from bottles, blocks, and cookies—spontaneous play any budding architect can appreciate. Ages 3–7. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. (Sept.)
- Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Young Frank, an architect, lives with his dog Eddie and his architect grandpa, Old Frank. Young Frank constructs all kinds of things, but Old Frank has a different criticism for each. So he decides that Young Frank should see the work of “REAL architects.” At the museum, among other exhibits, they see a “wiggly chair,” a “twisted tower,” even a whole model city; each is by a different architect named Frank. Back home, Old Frank admits that some of the things Young Frank made are like those in the museum. Together they make unusual constructions “of every shape and size.” That night Young Frank feels like a “REAL architect.” Old Frank feels, “…a little wiser.” Large pages host the drawings of the many unusual items. The relationship of the two Franks is reflected in their large heads, black-rimmed glasses, and black bowties. The stylized, cartoon-y illustrations use a limited palette of black, browns, and white on colored backgrounds. A note offers more information about the New York Museum of Modern Art and the four famous Franks whose works are seen here. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz AGERANGE: Ages 5 to 8.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—What is the relationship between creativity, art, and design? In exploring a question not often asked in children's picture books, Viva takes on an interesting challenge. Young Frank lives with his grandfather, Old Frank. They look almost exactly alike, with little hair and large black-rimmed glasses, and they are both architects. Young Frank likes to make things from any available materials. His toilet-paper-roll chair and wiggly book skyscraper, however, are dismissed by Old Frank, who takes his grandson to the museum to see the work of "REAL" architects. Readers who think architects build only structures may be confused by the lack of explicit explanation that they can be visionary artists, creating a range of objects. At the Museum of Modern Art, the Franks view Charlotte Perriand's Revolving Armchair and Arthur Young's Bell-47D1 Helicopter, among other exhibits. They are so excited by what they see that when they return home, they execute their own designs and put together an amazing city. While this ode to creativity is inspiring, the story elements do not fit together well. Young Frank and Old Frank, along with their long-suffering dog, Eddie, make a humorous family unit, but the older man's character is confusing: he seems to dismiss the more creative aspects of being an architect. He appears surprised by what he sees at MoMA, yet his apartment is filled with furnishings that reflect classical modern design. Viva's flat, minimalist illustrations suit the subject well. As an introduction to the museum's architecture and design collection, the book has value. As a stand-alone story, however, its pieces do not form a cohesive whole.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
A visit to a museum proves to be transformational for a cross-generational pair of architects. Young Frank is a very young architect who lives with his grandfather, also an architect and also named Frank, in a stylish high-rise apartment in New York. Young Frank loves to make things with household objects: a chair out of toilet-paper rolls, a curvy skyscraper out of a stack of books. Old Frank is skeptical that real architects do this kind of thing. A visit to the Museum of Modern Art with his precocious grandson shows Old Frank that architects do in fact make all kinds of things. The Franks peruse exhibits by two famous architects also named Frank: Gehry and Lloyd Wright. Inspired by the visit, they spend the evening back at the apartment designing a whole city full of imaginative creations from found objects, including a building made entirely from chocolate-chip cookies. Young Frank feels a little older, more "like a REAL architect," and Old Frank feels "younger--and a little wiser." The whimsical, cartoonlike illustrations recall Viva's New Yorker covers, and the pages are furnished in a designer palette of grays, olives and ochres. A gentle plug for the MoMA, this exquisitely designed book would be an enticing prelude to a visit with a young child as well as an invitation to all readers to let their imaginations run wild. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)
Product dimensions: 9.34 (w) x 11.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)
Meet the Author
Frank Viva is an illustrator and graphic designer who has won more than 300 awards. His illustrations have appeared in Time, Esquire, the New York Times, the Boston Globe and on the cover of the New Yorker. A past president of The Advertising & Design Club of Canada, he is passionate about cooking, wine, and his daily bike ride to the office. This is his first children's picture book.