Lost & Found by Shaun Tan

Lynn: I’ve struggled with this post so much that I’m in danger of wearing out my delete key.  I can’t seem to do ju84305561stice to Tan’s artistry in his latest book to hit our shores, Lost & Found (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, April 2011). Three short stories published earlier in Australia are combined in this stunning volume.  The first, titled The Red Tree, chronicles a young girl’s emotions on an overwhelmingly bad day – a day when “things go from bad to worse, when no one understands you.”   Tan captures the sense of that experience so perfectly that the day envelopes the reader too.  Happily the ending offers the perfect moment of hope that tomorrow will be better.  The middle story, The Lost Thing, may be my favorite if it is even possible to pick one.  A boy finds a lost thing on the beach, a weirdly wonderful trademark-Tan creature.  He takes it home but he clearly can’t keep it and needs to find a home for it but where?  The illustrations for this fantastic tale are full of intricate machines, extraordinary details, strange landscapes and stranger inhabitants.  The last story, The Rabbits, is written by John Marsden in spare evocative text and tells the story of a small race of appealing creatures whose land is  taken over by rabbits.   The parallels to colonization and industrialization are starkly clear and the story has an intense emotional impact.

Even with my favorite thesaurus at hand I am at a loss to fully describe Tan’s work.  Stunning, unique, thought-provoking, evocative, brilliant are some terms I will use but these simply aren’t sufficient.  The best I can do is urge you all to get your hands on this book.  You will want to read it again and again as each time through yields more discoveries.  It is…well…it is Shaun Tan.  I guess that says it all.

Cindy: It’s been a great spring for Shaun Tan. He is the winner of the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2011 and his website declares that he had perhaps the most surreal moment of his life as he found himself “hopping into a stage in front of millions to collect an Oscar from Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.” The title story in this collection was produced as a 15 minute animated short film and won an Oscar. The film trailer is available on the Lost & Found website and the film is available on dvd and as an iTunes download. I adored Tales from Outer Suburbia and The Arrival and think these honors are well deserved. This book, however, has won a special place in my heart. The Red Tree is a story for every school counselor to have at the ready for a kid (or a staff member) who is just having a really, really bad day. Think Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day for teens. I just love it. I have a daughter in college who is artistic and struggling to figure out just who she is and I plan to gift her with this book for that first story alone. Art teachers should be showing Tan’s work to their students. I want to start making a collage art piece myself…don’t miss this book. Truly.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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