Young Frank, Architect is the newest book from Frank Viva, author and illustrator of the fantastic TOON beginning reader graphic novel, A Trip to the Bottom of the World. Viva, an artist, illustrator, graphic designer and writer started Viva&Co., an independent branding and design consultancy. What is an independent branding company and why am I even bothering to talk about it here in a review of a kid's book? Because all kinds of people write and illustrate kid's books, bringing an amazing array of diversity, interests and information to this literary art form and I can't write a review of a book without knowing everything about the author and illustrator, making the writing of the review take far longer and have a word count far longer than it should. Also, I think that knowing everything that goes into making a picture book will enhance the out-loud-reading that the adult gives of it, even if they don't discuss design values and branding with their little listeners. Hopefully knowing about Viva's work will shape the way you look at the color palette, design style and typesetting (MoMA Graphic and Franklin Gothic, FYI) of this book and maybe all future picture books in a new way. The biggest client of Viva&Co. is probably Le Cruset, the French cookware brand, for whom they design, write and produce everything from consumer ads, packaging, direct mail, catalogues and websites. Viva&Co. also designs products, which can be purchased at MoMA, who asked Frank Viva to write, illustrate and design their first picture book for children which just happens to be Young Frank, Architect! Knowing all this, I think and read Young Frank, Architect a bit differently than I might have had I known nothing about the book or author/illustrator before I opened the cover. Which is good, because I have admit that the title of Young Frank, Architect made me think it was a biography about the young Frank Lloyd Wright, the most accessible architect (I say this based on the number of kid's books about him) to kids. And, while Frank Lloyd Wright and that other architect named Frank that people who don't know much about architecture seem to know, Frank Gehry, make appearances in Young Frank, Architect, the book starting with a quote from Lloyd Wright, this book is about Young Frank and his grandpa, Old Frank.
Old Frank is an architect. He lives with his grandson, Young Frank, and his dog, Eddie. Young Frank is an architect too, constructing buildings from "anything he can get his hands on: macaroni, books, dishes, spoons, dogs . . ." Young Frank made a chair using toilet paper rolls (echoing Frank Gehry's Wiggle Chair). When Old Frank saw it he said, "I don't think architects make chairs. And you can't really sit on this one, can you?" Old Frank has a similarly narrow-minded opinion of Young Frank's skyscraper made from books and the city that he designs on a giant roll of paper.
Old Frank may be a bit curmudgeonly when it comes to Young Frank's creativity, but, when Young Frank declares that he doesn't want to be an architect anymore, Old Frank decides that it's time to head to the museum to "see the work of some REAL architects."
There they see a "wiggly chair designed by an architect named Frank," a "twisted tower by an architect named Frank" and a "giant model of a whole city designed by another architect named Frank." Viva leaves the details of the works and their creators to a page at the end of the book that touts the Museum of Modern Art in New York City's wonderful qualities and provides brief, kid-friendly bios on the architects and their works featured in Young Frank, Architect. The thing that I love MOST about Young Frank, Architect is that this is not only or even necessarily a book about architects and architecture, this is a book about creativity and creating. Young Frank and Old Frank both learned something during their trip to MoMA and, upon returning home, they both get busy building, creating and thinking outside the lines!
Young Frank, Architect is a fantastic book to read to your kids and is guaranteed to spark creative thinking, in your kids and you!