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Monday, August 29, 2011

Lost & Found, by Shaun Tan. Scholastic, 2011. $24.99 ages 12 and up

"This all happened a few summers ago, one rather ordinary day by the beach. Not much was going on. I was, as usual, working tirelessly on my bottle-top collection and stopped to look up for no particular reason. That's when I first saw the thing."

What??? Three of Shaun Tan's mesmerizing books in one place? If you are a fan, you need this book. If not, you need to get your hands on it and be amazed by this tremendously talented artist.

I'm guessing that many did not know Shaun Tan's talent until they heard he won an Oscar last year for his animated short film...The Lost Thing. While I have no idea what impact the Oscar win has had on his career, I can only hope that many more people have given themselves the chance to take a close look at his work. With this omnibus, middle grade and high school readers have the opportunity to really study it.

First up is The Red Tree, a somewhat dark tale of a girl having a really tough day. As she plods through it she is confused, and terrified of so much. She's never sure what to expect and thus, has few expectations of the day itself or her future. Despite her gloomy demeanor and the oppressive tone of the story, observant readers will note the red leaf that makes its appearance on every page and, in doing so, offers a smidgen of hopefulness as the story ends.

The second story is The Lost Thing, the tale of a young boy searching the beach one day to top up his bottle top collection when he comes upon a something that looks lost. No one else seems to notice it, so he decides to take a closer look. He wanders its perimeter and finds that he gets a response when he starts talking to it. When no one shows up to claim it, the young boy seeks guidance from people on the beach and finally from his friend Pete:

"It's pretty weird. Maybe it doesn't belong to anyone. Maybe it doesn't come from anywhere. Some things are like that-" he paused for dramatic effect "-just plain lost."

When his parents won't let him keep it, and after much searching, he finds a place for it to be, where he thinks it can be happy. Really, who knows if that is true?

In the final book of the collection, Shaun Tan illustrates a book written by Australian author John Marsden called The Rabbits. Not the rabbits that are likely to come to mind. These rabbits 'came many grandparents ago' and evoke fear and terror on the people who live there. They arrive on ships, and the inhabitants are warned that they might mean trouble. They slowly take over, exploiting the land and its many natural resources:

"Where is the rich dark earth, brown and  moist?
Where is the smell of rain dripping from the gum trees?
Where are the great billabongs,
the river-swollen lakes,
alive with long-legged birds?
Who will save us from the rabbits?"

No happy ending here.

Both the artist and the writer add a detailed note about their work at the end of the book. Very interesting stuff.  It's a book that I will read again and again, and always find something new to see, or to ponder. If The Arrival and Tales of Outer Suburbia are familiar to you and you admire Tan's work, you can now add this worthy compilation to your library.

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