Lost & Found

Appearing as a follow-up to Shaun Tan’s genre-mixing 2009 story collection Tales from Outer Suburbia, Lost & Found is actually an omnibus collection of three of Tan’s earlier picture books: The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, and The Rabbits. These three picture books were originally created as individual works, and as such this collection does not flow as well as Tales from Outer Suburbia. However, each of these works is extremely notable and worth this republishing.

The Red Tree

The collection begins with The Red Tree, an ultimately hopeful tale that pairs a poem about the struggles of life, (“Sometimes the day begins / with nothing to look forward to // and things go from bad to worse // darkness overcomes you // nobody understands,”) with absolutely stunning visuals of a girl passing through highly imaginative surrealist and expressionist landscapes that illustrate the struggles. These pictures would take too long to describe, so luckily there is a video available to show potential readers that do not have this book in hand:

The Lost Thing

Tan recently won an honest-to-goodness Oscar for Best Short Animated Film for his animated version of The Lost Thing. This unique book illustrates the story of a teenage boy who finds a “lost thing” on the beach (it’s sort of a mechanical octopus), and takes it home like a stray dog. Once again we have unique science fiction cityscape illustrations as the boy tries to find a home for the the lost thing. The pictures and text are superimposed over collages of what appear to be old engineering manuals and diagrams of various mechanical devices, giving the whole thing a strong steampunk flavor. Here’s a trailer for the animated film version:

The Rabbits

This book, with text by John Marsden, gives the heartbreaking story of the colonization of Australia from the aboriginal perspective, told through a loosely allegorical story of personified kangaroos and rabbits. Once again the images are absolutely stunning, and as the rabbits multiply and build their society have an increasingly sci-fi, steampunk, and even post-apocalyptic atmosphere.

Overall, we are provided in one volume with three picture books by one of the finest illustrators in the world, but these are not necessarily picture books for young children. Like Tan’s other books, this collection is ideal for an adolescent audience, but because of its uniqueness it does not fall easily into our boxes of genres and library organization. For lack of a better home it will probably end up shelved with the graphic novels, but ideally they should be on display anyway, because they are so visually imaginative and browsable. I highly recommend this collection for students interested in illustration or graphic design, those who like smart quirky stories, and those interested in the cutting edge and yet-unmapped territories of what graphic novels can do.

Review by Joshua Whiting, Granite School District Library Media Program
Rating: ★★★★½
Interest Level: Grades 6 and Up

Shaun Tan – Official Site
The Lost Thing – Official Film Site

Lost & Found
Written by Shaun Tan and John Marsden, Illustrated by Shaun Tan
Arthur A. Levine
128 pages
Release Date: March 1, 2011 (omnibus edition)
ISBN: 9780545229241 (hardcover)

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