March 28, 2011

Review: Lost and Found

By Shaun Tan
Available now from Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic)
Review copy
Lost and Found: Three by Shaun Tan (Lost and Found Omnibus)Lost and Found: Three by Shaun Tan is a beautiful book. Tan's paintings vary in style, but all of them are full of interesting details. (Okay, not all of them are even paintings. There are collages, for instance.) I've noticed different things in the images everytime I've opened the book. The images stand well on their own, without the accompaniment of text.

The first story in this omnibus is "The Red Tree." This one has the most experimental art; sometimes the style changes between pages. "The Red Tree" gets quite dark, which could make it unappealing to younger children. There aren't many words, but the typography interacts with the pictures in interesting ways. The words are mostly unimportant to "The Red Tree." It's less of a story than a progression through the tone of a story, with misery gripping ever tighter then eventually giving way to hope. "The Red Tree" was my least favorite of the three, but only because the other two are such strong stories.

"Without sense or reason," Shaun Tan (2001)

Next is "The Lost Thing."  I loved the scrapbook style layout of this story. The narrator collects bottle caps and it seems like a fitting layout to express his personality. I also loved the bits of type included in the borders that sometimes show up in the middle of the page. This story would be good to read to a younger child before bed or for an older child (first grade or so) to read by his or herself. While it is far more conventional than "The Red Tree," it still has a distinctive style. This one was definitely my favorite, both for the humor and the sweetness. (Note: Shaun Tan just one an Oscar for the animated version of "The Lost Thing.")

The final story, "The Rabbits," was written by John Marsden (author of the Tommorrow series). This one is definitely for elementary aged children. It's an allegory of the British colonization of Australia from the point of view of the Aborigines. It's well-told and worth discussing with older children, but toddlers are more likely to be upset by the unhappy ending. Picture book does not necessarily mean children's book. The stylized profile of the rabbits did make for some incredible paintings, and Tan makes excellent use of negative space.

I think LOST AND FOUND is a good choice for families. The adults will enjoy the story and art as much as the kids. In fact, some adults will enjoy it even without the kids.

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