This is a gorgeous graphic novel that embodies the immigrant experience. Because there are no words, the reader can decode the meaning for themselves. When the main character travels to a new land, he is faced with an alien environment. The surreal pictures make it so the environment doesn't look like any particular place. As the character makes his way through the world, he is faced with strange symbols, strange creatures and strange food. Literally everything is strange to him and to the reader. Because there are no words, I took more time to look at each picture to figure out exactly what the character was going through.
This is a touching story that can be shared with readers from age 10 to adult. Schools could pair it with history lessons. Families who move to a new place could share the book with their kids. This book helps any reader understand a bit of what immigrants go through. Highly recommended.
I read this book for my Multicultural literature class.
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan is another example of how he uses his keen insight into the human condition to tell a beautiful story. I love when he uses entire two page spreads to illustrate his stories without any words whatsoever. In this book, he does this several times and it is breathtaking. Once again, I want to put his work up on my walls and just stare at it all the time. This is the story of two little boys who are basically listing out all of the things one cannot do during the summer months. You know basic preventative aids in case giant monsters attack planet earth. Normal stuff. It's an extremely quick read but honestly it's one that I pondered over for quite some time because it's just so visually stunning. If anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas you could just get me the set of Tan's books and I'd be eternally grateful. Kidding! (Not really. Family, if you're reading this you know what to do. Hahahaha now I'm kidding. My family doesn't read this.) All in all, this was a winner which came as no surprise to you guys I'm sure. 10/10
I didn't want to spoil the story for you guys but I did want to show you what I meant about his use of the entire two pages for his art.
It happened again. I fell in love with another book by Shaun Tan. The book I'm talking about is Lost & Found and it's absolutely fabulous. There are 3 short stories collected in this book: The Red Tree, Lost & Found, and The Rabbits. As with the other books by Tan, there is a fabulous mix of fantasy and reality. The fantastic elements are used to tell stories that are all too true and real. He hits at the heart of a person with stories of depression (The Red Tree), disenfranchisement (The Rabbits), and loneliness/otherness (Lost & Found). His ability to create elaborate stories through gorgeously drawn images astounds me. I understand now the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" because many times the illustrations themselves are all that are needed to convey the real emotions of his characters. The settings are a character in their own right and the urge to leap into the book and visit those places is virtually impossible to ignore. The Red Tree follows someone who is battling against their own mind and spiraling deeper and deeper into depression. However, there's something following her that she can't see (but the keen-eyed reader will) and the end result is uplifting and powerful. Lost & Found was probably my favorite. It's about a man who comes across something just a wee bit odd and out-of-place. He decides it must be lost and there follows a journey to take this thing back to where it 'belongs'. (It's also a short animated film which I am definitely going to watch.) The third was actually written by John Marsden with the illustrations by Tan. If you replace rabbits with basically any group of people who come into an already established area and claim it for their own you'll totally get what they're trying to convey with this one. And so another Shaun Tan book added to the list 'must own for life'. 10/10
As I've mentioned in two other posts (here and here), I'm a fan of Shaun Tan's works. What's better than a book written and illustrated by Shaun Tan? A book of Grimm's Fairytales illustrated with sculptures by Shaun Tan with an introduction by Neil Gaiman! If you've ready anything by Gaiman then you know his wheelhouse is dark, creepy fantasy. The Singing Bones definitely qualifies to enter that wheelhouse (why do they call it a wheelhouse by the way?). Each of Tan's sculptures are accompanied by a short passage from one of the Brothers Grimm fairytales. It's all about the emotion that the stories evoke and how they can be interpreted through art. Despair, fear, and hope are just a few of the feelings elicited within the pages of this book. If you're familiar with Tan's illustrations then you know the kind of artwork he creates tends to be eerie and full of emotion. This is no exception. I know that most people are familiar with the sweet illustrations and the happily ever after versions of these tales but Tan used the original text to create his art which makes it much more raw. I took my time with it much as you would with a large storybook. I personally think it would make an excellent coffee table book. I'd give it a 8/10 only because I would have liked the full versions of the stories and more art because I'm super greedy like that.
Rapunzel (Source: The Galaxial Word)