Saturday, May 12, 2012
REVIEW: Lost & Found by Shaun Tan
Genre: Picture Book, Short Stories
Audience: All Ages (9 and up)
Summary: Three (very) short stories, each beautifully illustrated, are collected in this fantastical volume. The first two stories, "The Red Tree" and "The Lost Thing," were written by Tan while the third, "The Rabbits," was written by his fellow Aussie, John Marsden (Tomorrow When the War Began). Each story deals with varying themes of emotional disconnection and physical displacement.
First Line: "Sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to..." (from "The Red Tree")
The key to all three of these stories lies in Tan's moody, evocative paintings. The paintings are immensely detailed and often offer hidden treasures to observant readers. Some of the images are truly stunning, especially juxtaposed with the simple, lyrical text. In my favorite story, "The Red Tree," a young girl wakes up and moves though her not-very-good day, her feelings shifting from disappointment to alienation and depression. And yet all along, there are tiny glimpses of hope to find in Tan's artwork. "The Lost Thing" is a more upbeat tale of a boy who discovers a strange, lost creature in a chaotic and highly industrialized world. Both of these stories feel very intimate, but the final story has a wider scope. It is both an allegory about imperialism—specifically the invasion of Europeans in North America and Australia—and also touches on environmental concerns. Both of Tan's stories feel more personal—and, for me, more powerful—but each of the three stories calls to the reader's imagination and is strong enough to stand alone.
You might also be interested to learn that Tan adapted the second story in this volume into an Oscar-winning animated short. Here's a peek at the trailer: