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The Lost Thingby Shaun Tan
I will admit to having a special place in my heart for children's picture books. They appeal to me because of their simplicity in design and message. They are the pink cupcakes of the book world when you don't feel like reading a serious chiffon cake. However, The Lost Thing is the best of both desserts. Shaun Tan excels in illustration. He creates intricate collages filled with whimsical images, bright colors, and meaningful prose. His stories convey a message that can be appreciated by both children and adults. This particular story speaks of acceptance of things that are unusual and out of the ordinary and, beyond acceptance, seeing the beauty of those things.
Synopses & Reviews
A boy scavenges the beach for his bottle top collection when he discovers a lost "thing"; a large, freakish creature that looks like a cross between a crab and a pot-bellied stove. Thus begins a witty and strange narrative set in a creepy, futuristic environment.
Shaun Tan's artwork, collages comprised of such unusual elements as old textbook pages, oil paint, gears, and tubes, inspires young readers to figure out what goes where, and why, in this challenging mix of science fiction and puzzle book.
"Tan's affecting and sophisticated picture books, including The Red Tree, pack an emotional and visual wallop, but saturate readers with ennui. This melancholy story, despite pale whimsy, cannot muster much hope for those 'lost things' with uncertain raisons d'tre. The narrator is a stoop-shouldered, Dilbert-like nerd who finds the Lost Thing while collecting those quintessential cast-offs — bottle caps — on an industrial beach. Tan pictures the Lost Thing as a garbage-truck-size red vessel with crablike gray claws and tentacles, equal parts organism, machine and teakettle. Surely it is too weird to pass unnoticed, yet everyone ignores it. The storyteller and thing interact like a boy and dog, playing fetch, making a sandcastle (or sand-factory, really). After feeding the thing in his gloomy backyard shed, the hero tries to deliver it to the windowless Federal Department of Odds & Ends. Yet he cannot bear to leave it there: 'This is a place for forgetting,' a machine/man hybrid janitor portends. Only through effort does he find an alternative suggested by the janitor, 'a dark little gap off some anonymous little street,' which opens into a Dal-esque habitation of other frolicking, forgotten things. Tan's intricate multimedia paintings reference Hopper's empty windows and the alienated cityscapes of Lang's Metropolis. This weighty book is best suited to mature children or older comics/science-fiction readers, who will goggle at the marvelous illustrations. Ages 7-up." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Tan's illustrations offer playful tributes that could serve as introductions to such artists as Miró, Duchamp, Dalí, Kandinski, Hopper, John Brack, and Jeffrey Smart....[A] singular talent." School Library Journal
About the Author
Award-winning artist and author Shaun Tan has achieved international recognition for his work. A graduate of the University of Washington in 1995, with honors in fine arts and English literature, he lives in Perth, Australia.
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