Sunday evening may have been the first time some people had heard the name Shaun Tan—when his animated short “The Lost Thing” won an Oscar—but those of us who are fans of Tan rejoiced to see his work recognized. And this month we have another reason to celebrate as well: The Lost Thing, the picture book on which the short was based, is finally widely available in the U.S. Lost & Found is a collection of three of Tan’s picture books—The Red Tree, The Lost Thing and The Rabbits—and it hits store shelves in March.
Plus, we have five copies of Lost & Found to give away to our readers courtesy of Scholastic, Inc., so keep reading to find out how to win!
The very first time I came across Shaun Tan was in Spectrum 8, a collection of science fiction and fantasy artwork. I was intrigued by the illustration, particularly because it came from a children’s book, and made a note to look him up. I ended up purchasing The Red Tree when I came across it in 2003, but it took me another three years before I finally tracked down a copy of The Lost Thing (at the library, after we moved to Portland). It was beautiful and gorgeous, about a kid who finds the titular lost thing and tries to figure out where it belongs. But I was unable to find a copy anywhere to actually purchase. I’d never found it in any bookstores, and the only copies I could track down on Amazon were selling for upwards of a hundred bucks—a bit out of my price range. So I’m extremely delighted about the arrival of Lost & Found and I highly recommend it.
I mentioned the first book, The Red Tree, in my Stories About Girls post—it’s a moody book about a girl who is having a rough day. There is hope at the end, but the book contains some remarkably gloomy artwork, gorgeous and intense.
The Lost Thing comes off as something of a fable. A boy discovers on the beach a huge metallic contraption with tentacles, and tries to figure out where it belongs. But unlike a fable, the story ends without a moral—at least according to the narrator. Really, though, the story is about noticing the things that other people don’t notice and not becoming so busy that you can’t see them. It’s not as gloomy as The Red Tree and kids will get a kick out of the huge oddly-shaped thing that follows the boy around.
The Rabbits is a picture book that may or may not be for kids. This one was written by John Marsden with illustrations by Tan—and since they are both Australians, this story does not depict rabbits as cute, fluffy bunnies. In fact, this may be the most terrifying depiction of rabbits I’ve seen in a picture book. The rabbits arrive in their ships, pushing out the natives (marsupial-looking creatures) and exploiting the land and its resources. It’s pretty easy to see the parallel drawn between the rabbits and Europeans upon their arrival in Australia, and the story doesn’t end on a happy note. It’s a pretty bleak forecast but the illustrations are mesmerizing and the text is thought-provoking.
If you haven’t experienced Shaun Tan’s artwork yet, Lost & Found is a great introduction to three fantastic picture books. I also highly recommend The Arrival, a wordless graphic novel about immigration which I mentioned in my “7 Comics Off the Beaten Path.” Just today I was showing it to a friend of mine and while flipping through the pages I fell in love with the book all over again. Finally, the animated short (which I haven’t seen yet) is available on DVD here, though I’m not sure how much shipping from Australia will cost you. Fortunately the DVD is for all regions so you’ll be able to watch it on any DVD player; but I may wait until it’s available Stateside before buying a copy for myself.
Like what you see? Leave a comment below by 11:59pm (EST) on Friday, March 4, and you’ll be entered to win one of five copies of Lost & Found that Scholastic is generously providing. We’ll announce the winners next week! (U.S. & Canada residents only, sorry.)
UPDATE: I was just informed that I was looking in the wrong places for the animated short—The Lost Thing is also available from iTunes for $1.99, for those of you who don’t want to pay for shipping from Down Under. I’m buying mine now!
Disclosure: Scholastic provided a review copy of Lost & Found.