Monday, November 14, 2011

Long and Boring Road

Our family loves the books by Byron Barton, like Trains and Machines at Work. Plenty of everyday and exciting things happen in these books, and the stories are told with few enough words that toddlers end up memorizing the text and can "read" the book to themselves or to others.
  
Along a Long Road seems like it is trying to be such a book, but I think it fails miserably. Unfortunately I don't have a toddler to try it out on. On second thought, I wouldn't try it out on anyone, because I don't do that. I have to preview a book and make sure that I like it before I will read it to a child, and I could barely get through this book by Frank Viva.

The picture book features stylistic pictures of the long road, made shiny by some plastic coating, and a very long man riding his long and stretchy bicycle. According to the text he rides and rides, “again and again.”

I haven't known small children to be very interested in bicycles. They like their trikes, and boys especially seem to love heavy road equipment, trains, and motorcycles. One more reason to pass on this book.

About the only thing both my husband and I liked was the picture of a pregnant woman whom the cycling man passes. I suppose there are plenty of items along the road that one could talk about with a child, but no story to keep the long road from getting tedious.

I quickly got tired of the man and his weirdly shaped vehicle, expressed in only three colors, plus black. The artwork reminds me a little of an odd and favorite book of ours, The Clock, by Esphyr Slobodkina of the abstract expressionist movement. Slobodkina is better known for her picture book Caps for Sale, but long ago I found a beat-up copy of The Clock, which is a captivating story.

Maybe Along a Long Road would be pleasing to a very early reader, or a delayed reader, who might be able to relate to the sign for lottery tickets or a distant view of a carnival, and who would find satisfaction in reading the words "again and again" again and again. Not that I can imagine a child like that. If anyone out there has had another experience with Viva's arty book, I would like to hear about it, even though I will soon take it back to the library for good. Give me Barton any day.

2 comments:

Jeannette said...

Oh good, it is a book review. When I first saw the title I thought perhaps it was your take on driving home from up north...and that didn't sound like my friend who delight in the clouds and flowers wither she goes.

Marfa said...

Now, you got me...I'm curious and want to go to the library and get out this book and Barton! I do like that image of a man on a bicycle and the laundry blowing in the wind.