NOTES from June meeting; SPEAKER: Frank Viva

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 4:55 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

NOTES from June 14 Meeting; SPEAKER: Frank Viva


CANSCAIP President Sharon Jennings greeted a large and very enthusiastic crowd to our last meeting of the season until September. Sharon introduced and thanked the volunteers present: Michelle Nidenoff, Holy Main, Patricia Storms, Theo Heras, Gillian O’Reilly, Heather Camlot, Gillian Dobson, and also our one staff person, Administrative Director Helena Aalto.

Sharon invited Mahtab Narsimhan to the front as we say good-bye. Mahtab is moving to Vancouver, and although she will be missed here, she will be a fabulous friend to our British Columbia community. Finally, Sharon invited newcomers to introduce themselves.

Sharon welcomed Christie Williamson, Manager of Children’s Books at the nearby Indigo. Suggested by Jennifer Mook-Sang, Jennifer Maruno and Sylvia McNicoll, Christie coordinated a book signing from 4:00 to 7:00 today, open to any CANSCAIP members available to drop in, and the signed books will be part of a local authors display in the store.  Eric Walters asked to introduce Christie, and said she is one of the best booksellers in the business. Christie talked about the importance of a relationship with bookstores and booksellers, and encouraged us to introduce ourselves and to bring our books to her attention – these people want to sell our books!


Jennifer Mook-Sang announced that she won the Surrey Schools’ Book of the Year Award for Speechless.


Mireille Messier is the author of Fatima and the Clementine Thieves (Red Deer Press), illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard. Based in Morocco and inspired by an African proverb, it is the story of a young girl who struggles to save her family’s clementine orchard from mysterious thieves.

Eric Walters presented 90 Days of Different (Orca), a YA novel with a twist. Sophie’s boyfriend breaks up with her at the end of high school because she is too predictable. Her best friend makes her try all kinds of new things – and she has to write about them on social media. Readers can use social media to actually interact with “Sophie” (who Eric said is NOT him pretending to be a high school girl!) and give her advice.

Patricia Storms illustrated By the Time You Read This, written by Jennifer Lanthier (Clockwise Press), in which Oscar pens the ultimate break-up letter to his former Partner in Adventure and now Sworn Mortal Enemy. Is this childhood friendship doomed to destruction along with the world of imagination the two have built together?


Anna Aleksanyan, co-founder of the new Canadian Contemporary School of Art in Toronto, invited creators to check out their website ( regarding visits and exhibits.

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is now accepting applications for 2018 Book Week Tour.

Gillian O’Reilly invited everyone to the Osborne Collection’s summer exhibit “Paws, Claws, Wings and Stings: Children’s Books About Animals”, featuring bestiaries, picture books and early science texts, as well as modern works encouraging conservation of our natural world. On until September 9 at the Lillian H. Smith branch of Toronto Public Library. 


Patricia Storms introduced and welcomed our speaker Frank Viva.

Frank Viva is an image-maker, art director, brand developer, and highly talented illustrator and author. His artwork appears regularly in The New York Times, and on the cover of The New Yorker. (He couldn’t show us, or give us any hint, but he is finally getting his “punch at Trump” on an upcoming cover.) 

His Toronto based Viva & Co. studio does branding, product design, corporate identities, digital and website design. He had slides of much of his work and we were surprised at the number of clients: Cottage Life, Le Crueset, vineyards in France and Italy (or Frataly, as he put it), Butterfield & Robinson, the New York subway, private schools, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and so many more. Frank told a funny story about riding his bike past the New York Life Insurance Company building in Manhattan as an art student (he studied Fine Art), certain that he would never be part of that ‘big money’ world; he now he designs the company’s annual reports.

Frank started doodling in sketch books 30 years ago and has kept them all. He noted that his sketches are “all over the map” – just his “daily impressions”.  Frank informed us that he “trained his eye” to see colour, and that he always sees colour first. He finds that there are “threads” within his sketches that will connect in some way for him even though they were drawn years apart. An editor at Little, Brown saw a sketch of a “zany” character riding a bike, and suggested a book based on this character. Along a Long Road, his first book, was the result (nominated for a GG), and was created as one long 40 foot illustration. Frank lamented that once in book format, nobody noticed! But it is now on display in all its glory at the Eric Carle Museum of children’s book illustration. 

Outstanding in the Rain: A Whole Book with Holes is based on oronyms – phrases which sound the same: I scream – ice cream. It was a two year challenge to figure out a story around a complicated art/design of die-cuts in the pages, where the holes turn into pictures that have to make sense on both sides of the page; fork handles become four candles, and so on. One of his best experiences was a trip to Antarctica – talk about colour! A Trip to the Bottom of the World resulted. After a few picture books, Frank wrote, illustrated, and designed the well-reviewed middle grade coming of age novel Sea Change.

Frank said he started as a designer and moved to writing copy. He then tried illustration and thought about writing and illustrating books for young people. He humbly told us that he decided to combine his three talents – design, illustration, writing – because “I’m not the best at any of these.” Audience members laughingly disagreed: one noted that he has an immediately recognizable style; another noted that the creativity in his books is truly inspiring. Frank mentioned that his day job was design, and that he worked on books evenings and weekends. But now his books are bringing his design work to the attention of new clients, and so his two careers “bleed” back and forth.

After Frank answered questions, he finished his fascinating talk by telling us that, “I never grew up, and I’m happiest in the middle of solving a design problem.”

Sharon thanked Frank for his inspirational session, commenting that it is always fascinating to learn of another’s zigzag career to the wonderful world of children’s books.