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Friday, August 2, 2013

Fiction, Fantasy, and YA Book Review: LOST AND FOUND by Shaun Tan



LOST AND FOUND by Shaun Tan


















1.  BIBLIOGRAPHY
Tan, Shaun. 2011. LOST AND FOUND. New York, NY: Levine Books. ISBN: 978-0545229241

2.  PLOT SUMMARY 
Previously three separate stories: THE RED TREE, THE LOST THING, and THE RABBITS, Tan brings you the stories of a girl who discovers a way out of a dark depression, a boy who finds a place for a lost thing, and how a species of peaceful creatures lose their homes to invading rabbits. 

 3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS 
Through Tan’s masterful and emotionally driven artwork, he reveals the hopelessness and the mental state of a young girl who finds no joy in life in THE RED TREE.  The story’s theme is about depression and how what we are looking for is often right in front of us. The words are short but poignant and take the reader into the mind of someone who doesn’t know how to find happiness.  Even just waking up in the morning can feel hopeless as “the day begins with nothing to look forward to.” Tan is spot-on as he describes the world as a “deaf machine” which explains how people suffering through a depression feel that others do not understand them. Pessimism is also another characteristic of depression that Tan showcases as the character feels that everything always seems to “go from bad to worse” and that “all your troubles come at once.”  The illustrations are visual metaphors for what the character is feeling.  When the character is waiting for something good to happen, he represents this with a girl marking off each day like a prisoner would in a cell with slashes on a wall.  However, in this case it is not a wall but the back of a snail – which also represent how slow time seems to pass when we are waiting for something to happen. Readers who are suffering or have suffered through a depression can identify with the young girl in the story who cannot seem to find happiness in life and struggles to find a light in her dark world.

In THE LOST THING, readers are reminded how innocence is often lost as we become so engulfed in our everyday lives as adults.  We become less open-minded and more cynical as we go through life like robots.  The discovery of something new or noticing the obvious becomes difficult as we occupy our minds with work and adult pragmatism. In this story, we are introduced to an average boy who collects bottle caps and finds something strange on the beach one day.  No one seems to notice this large, strange creature on the shore right in the middle of everyone.  It was something that was definitely out of place and the boy takes it upon himself to take this lost thing back to where it belongs, or at least to somewhere it would fit in.  Later, as the boy gets older he stops noticing the “lost things” and seems to fall into the same everyday routine as the adults in the beginning of the story.  The theme of losing your innocence and the wonder of childhood is obvious and disappointing because it all seems inevitable somehow.  Even at the end, Tan shows you the “man” that gives the boy the clue to find a place for his lost thing, and you realize it wasn’t a man at all. It was something strange and out of place and because you were so busying with everything else going on in the picture you missed it.  There is no doubt that Tan uses strong imagery to show deeper meaning behind this story.

Finally, in THE RABBITS written by John Marsden, Tan illustrates the story of how the North American Indians lost their lives and land to European conquerors.  The peaceful creatures which represent the Indians are confused at first because the foreigners looked similar to them even though they spoke a different language.  They didn’t feel too threatened because the “rabbits” were small in number at first.  Soon, more and more rabbits arrived and they took over the land and the natural resources.  The creatures fought the rabbits, but there were too many of them and no match for their technology.  Their numbers seemed never ending. In the end, the creatures lost their land and their homes and were driven away to live elsewhere.  The story also closely relates to the theme of nature vs. technology.  Tan beautifully depicts this through these two worlds which collide and have very different ideals.  This is a connection to the ongoing struggle of protecting the earth and its natural resources and as well as developing technology to further society.  Like the creatures in the end, we are also left to wonder how to fix this problem.
 
4. REVIEW EXCERPT(S)
A New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2007
A New York Times Notable Children's Book of 2007
World Fantasy Award 2007, Best Artist
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2007
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2007
A Booklist Editors' Choice for 2007

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “The largeness of the landscapes and the scarcity of text in these stories give readers' own imaginations room to stretch—they are undeniably strange, emotionally diverse, and unsettling. Certain kids will return to this book again and again.”

BOOKLIST:While they are most assuredly not for young children, these stories representing the visionary work of a master storyteller, illustrator, and designer who cares deeply about his message deserve a place in almost every collection.”

 5. CONNECTIONS
* This book is great to share with mature children in elementary or even secondary grades that are struggling through depression or trying to find meaning in their world.

*Collect other books written and illustrated by Shaun Tan: THE ARRIVAL, TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA, THE BIRD KING: AN ARTIST’S NOTEBOOK, ERIC, and BIRD KING AND OTHER SKETCHES.

*Other illustrated books about depression or dealing with emotional issues:
Adams, John. THE DRAGONFLY DOOR. Ill. Barbara Leonard Gibson. ISBN: 978-1934066164
Crist, James J. WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE SAD AND LONELY. ISBN: 978-1575421896
Stewart, H.E. A PATCHED HEART: A GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP AND CARING. ISBN: 978-0969385257

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