Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Trio of Shaun Tan

If there's one thing that I wish of Shaun Tan's books, it's that they were longer. He's one of the most amazing modern artists that I've come across and his story telling is also beautiful. What makes his books for me are his paintings. There is something so unique and brilliant about him that he need not have any words to accompany them. A prime example of this is his book, The Arrival, which I reviewed a couple of years ago. A book with no words. I checked out three books illustrated by him from the library, two of which he also wrote, one of which he illustrated. rabbirsThe Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan 32 pgs. 2003 5/5 The one that he just illustrated is The Rabbits by John Marsden and illustrated by Tan. The rabbits is a powerful books in it's short length and covers a much darker subject matter than I had expected. I had expected happy, maybe bizzare, little rabbits frolicking around, but these are not the rabbits that we meet. The rabbits that we meet are conquerors and pillagers. The book opens with the line "The Rabbits came many grandparents ago". It tells the story of land inhabited by strange creatures that are never named. Their land is fertile and beautiful, but one day "the rabbits" arrive with a different plan in mind. They want the land as their own. They cause war, famine, and kidnap the local children and destroy the world that one belonged to the others. It's a tragic story in it's few pages and is beautifully illustrated by the master, Shaun Tan. This one was quite relevant to all of the unnecessary wars going on today. rabbits21 lostthingThe Lost Thing by Shaun Tan 32 pgs. 2004 4/5 The Lost Thing, written and illustrated by Shaun Tan is a much lighter type of story. I suppose it's a story about belonging, about finding a place where you belong, but like Tan says at the end, I'm not entirely sure there is a moral to be had here. It's the story of a boy who is walking around one day looking for bottle caps for his collection when he comes upon a thing. It's a giant red thing that looks somewhat like a tea kettle, but with lots of doors and bells. Him and the thing quickly become friends and enjoy each other's company. But he realizes when he takes it home, that it doesn't belong there. He has to find a home for it. The first option saddens him as it seems a place where the thing will be forgotten, a place where it also doesn't belong. So he continues his search until he finds a place where it seems to fit the best. Once again, Tan's drawings are top notch in this little story, though not quite as bold as they were in The Rabbits. One of the things I love about Tan's artwork is the industrialization of everything. This one felt much more like The Arrival than The Rabbits did. I guess that's because the story was actually written by Tan himself. The worlds that he creates through his paintings are so detailed oriented and they are worlds that are totally alien to us with all sorts of creatures and gadgets laden around. You could look at a Tan painting for hours and continually find new things in them. His books are certainly worth the price tag on them for that alone. They never lose their readability. lost-thing2 redtreeThe Red Tree by Shaun Tan 32 pgs. 2003 5/5 This one is by far my favorite of the three Tan books that I read and if I could give it 10/5 stars, I would. Seriously, I think this is a little treasure that should be on every one's book shelf. The story opens with a young girl awakening in her bed and being drowned by leaves. As the day progresses, things just get worse and worse as beautiful things pass her by. She feels like there is nowhere she belongs...there is a dark cloud following her. But a special little surprise awaits her in her room at the end of the day. Something beautiful that was spawned from the darkness of her day. This was such an amazing book. It captures perfectly those days when we all feel that we don't belong, that nothing is going our way, that no one cares. We've all been there. This book sends a quiet message to look out for what's good in the world during those dark times. To look for what good can become from the bad. This book also had my favorite illustrations of the three. They were simply captivating in how they showed the despair of the girl and the hope that waited for her. Please add this one to your library if you can find it! redtree1

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