Sea Change - Frank Viva

One summer can change your whole life. As soon as school lets out, Eliot's parents send him to the very edge of the world: a fishing village in a remote part of Nova Scotia. And what does the small town of Point Aconi have to offer? Maggots, bullies and grumpy old men. But along the way, Eliot discovers much more—a hidden library, starry nights and a mysterious girl named Mary Beth. See Point Aconi through Eliot's eyes, as he finds that this place he never wanted to visit is becoming a home he doesn't want to leave.

Whether you know of Frank Viva from his work in the New Yorker, or from his picturebook Outstanding in the Rain, you know that his work is nothing less than unique and impressive. If you don't know any of Viva's work, I would encourage you to pick up this or any of his other work and discover his style for yourself. This book is perfect for such an introduction, as it contains his art as well as his delightful prose.

Eliot's tale is not an uncommon one: a young boy goes away for the summer, meets new people, gets in trouble, and learns some lessons on secrets, truths, and the darker side of human nature. This particular take is uniquely Canadian, and interwoven with Viva's illustrations. Sometimes the words take their own shape, change font, and work themselves around images to evoke emotion and sympathy. In one particular instance, the words themselves become a smiling face, and at another point, the words appear to be crying. While this is, for the most part, impressive, at times the words become difficult to read and may actually make it hard for younger readers to follow along. 

Overall, the novel is well-constructed, with a strong sense of place, sympathetic characters, and an underlying sense of the inevitability of human suffering. This is an unforgettable journey into small-town Atlantic Canada with a truly memorable young protagonist.


(NOTE: This review is from an advance reading copy - Out May 2016)


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