There and Back Again! A Long Way Away: a Two-Way Story by Frank Viva
A HAPPY PLACE
A HAPPY PLACE
A LONG WAY
Frank Viva's surreal and inventive picture book, executed in vertical two-page spreads, follows the maiden voyage of a young space alien, smiling goodbye to his family as his pod zooms down a yellow vertical slide which takes him down through space, even meeting up with a parachutist also on his way down:
Sailing past asteroids, a boot, satellites and a passing jetliner he falls, finally to settle into a blue sea, floating past a tugboat and fisherman to settle down, down into the sea, crossing the path of a mini-sub, a jellyfish, and a diver before the little voyager settles down among shapely corals at the bottom of the sea.
A DEEP SLEEP.
It is a mysterious and mind-bending journey, but for bemused readers, that is not the end in Frank Viva's remarkable A Long Way Away (Little, Brown, 2013). At this point the book can then be reread in reverse from the ending back to the beginning, as the young alien ascends through the blue water to the air and back through space to greet his his smiling family again. Viva played with this two-way format in his earlier book, Along a Long Road (see my review here), and in this new one tells in simple but mellifluous prose this "two-way" story set forth in in marvelous mixed-media illustrations that children will find both funny yet intriguing. That a story that can just as well be read from beginning to end and end to beginning is a fascinating and compelling concept for youngsters in what is but one more innovation which pushes the limitations of the picture book.
A Long Way Away scored a hit with the critics. As Innovative illustrator Tom Lichtenheld says in the New York Times Book Review, "Illustrated with the joyous aesthetic of a Matisse cut-paper collage, the story works gracefully both ways, and children will love following the character as it ventures away from home in one version, then back to the security of its family in the other. A Long Way Away delivers an exciting out-and-back adventure while proving there's still room for invention in the nondigital book format."