Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bookanista Feature: Shaun Tan's LOST AND FOUND

My friend Heather kept telling me about this artist and writer, Shaun Tan. And then Tan won an Oscar for his short film based on "Lost Things."

And still, I would look at his books and think, "meh." It didn't seem to be my sort of thing. It wasn't pretty. It seemed like a quiet book. I was fairly certain neither kissing nor explosions were involved.

But recently I was in Salisbury at the Literary Bookpost, and thought...I'll try it.

Within the first few pages...I was hooked. My doubt was SO unfounded.

LOST & FOUND was beautiful. was, but it wasn't. I was right in that the artwork isn't pretty. But there's a difference between "pretty" and "beautiful." Something can be ugly, but beautiful at the same time.

LOST & FOUND consists of three stories--"The Red Tree," "The Lost Thing," and "The Rabbits."

The stories are each different in tone. "The Red Tree" is about overcoming depression; "The Lost Thing" is about losing the nature of innocence; "The Rabbits" is about colonialism. But, of course, it's not as simple as that. None of it is. Because "The Red Tree" might be about depression, but it's also about finding yourself, about being yourself, about accepting what's wrong and what isn't. Also: it's about a red tree.

None of these stories are simple. While I think you could make some comparisons to "The Red Tree" with Doctor Seuss's OH, THE PLACES YOU WILL GO! this story is much more complex. Tan's stories are not meant for children, despite the picture-book format. Or, rather--they are meant for children. In the same way that the Grimm Fairy Tales were meant for children. These stories aren't silly little nothings, they aren't  fluffy bunnies and pokey puppies. But they are true, and they are beautiful.

This is an illustration from "The Red Tree"--the dark fish is the disappointment, sorrow, and sadness hanging over the red-haired girl on the street. It doesn't swallow her, but it does block out the sun. And that's one of the most important things in this book--that the text and pictures are indelibly intertwined.

But if you look closely--and I mean closely--you'll see a red leaf. And the red leaves add up to a red tree.

So: check this book out! And check out Shaun Tan's other works, too--I know I will be!

Check out the other Bookanista Reviews!

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