Whoever coined the term “deceptively simple” obviously had something like Frank Viva’s debut picture book, Along a Long Road, in mind. Created digitally as a single, 35-foot-long piece of art, this story of a lone cyclist is less about the short text (sometimes only one word per page) and more about the experience he brings to young readers and listeners. The retro-style illustrations sport minimal background colors—cream, blue and black—and a touch of red in the cyclist’s jersey. Children’s eyes and hands will be drawn to the raised yellow road, which they can trace with their fingers on each page.
When the cyclist sets out on his ride, a lighthouse appears in the background and a dragonfly hovers above. As he journeys up and down a hill, into a tunnel, over a bridge and through a town, his body positions and expressions give clues to the strenuousness and enjoyment of the ride. When he can reach his full speed on a straightaway, his smile and already extended body appear to stretch even longer. Items in the foreground and background, such as a snail inching uphill and a roaring jet, also help identify the rider’s pace, while another clue set in the rider’s path foreshadows a quick bump in the road.
Never far from shore, the cyclist comes full circle to his starting point, this time with the moon illuminating the water, the lighthouse sending out a beam of light and a bat flying overhead. As he continues along the road, young readers will want to turn back to the beginning and follow along again—and again.