STARRED REVIEW
April 14, 2015

Big fun with wordplay

By Frank Viva

A young boy heads to Coney Island for a birthday outing, his mother treating him to ice cream once they arrive. The word “cream” shows through a die-cut hole (“‘Ice cream,’ I say, my birthday surprise!”), and on the next spread, after the boy drops his snack, we read: “‘Oh no!’ I scream, with tears in my eyes.”

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A young boy heads to Coney Island for a birthday outing, his mother treating him to ice cream once they arrive. The word “cream” shows through a die-cut hole (“‘Ice cream,’ I say, my birthday surprise!”), and on the next spread, after the boy drops his snack, we read: “‘Oh no!’ I scream, with tears in my eyes.”

This is the name of the game in Frank Viva’s newest picture book: It’s a story that plays with words (specifically oronyms, or pairs of words that sound the same but have different spellings or meanings, such as with “ice cream” and “I scream”), not to mention the cleverly placed die-cut holes on nearly every spread. “A Whole Story with Holes,” the cover states after all. It’s a superbly designed book, and page turns often reveal delightful discoveries: When the boy leans to the ground to mourn his fallen ice cream, with his mouth wide open in surprise, his teeth—appearing through the die-cut hole—consist of the lines and white space that made up the top of the subway train in the previous spread.

Viva’s illustrations, filled with vivid, saturated colors and dominated by teals, yellows, reds and browns, are a visual treat. Everything—line, shapes, patterns—works together to form pleasing compositions. His hand-drawn text type is handsome, and he proves once again that he has a very distinctive, all-his-own style.

Some of the oronym-starring sentences work better than others. A few of them feel forced (“her ear” and “her rear” in a sequence that initially confused me), though others flow organically in the story (“fork handles” pairs with “four candles” as the mother surprises the boy with a picnic birthday party).

This “whole story with holes” may have a couple holes in its text, but the wordplay is still worth the ride. And readers will appreciate the illustrations and design, which are just as the title tells you: outstanding.

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.

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Outstanding in the Rain

Outstanding in the Rain

By Frank Viva
Little, Brown
ISBN 9780316366274

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