Review of Lost & Found, by Shaun Tan

Lost & Found

by Shaun Tan

Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011.
Starred Review
2011 Sonderbooks Stand-outs: #5 Other Teen Fiction

Lost & Found is a collection of three short books originally published in Australia. I find myself wishing they were still separate, because each story is powerful by itself. But I am glad I got to read all three.

Like The Arrival, and Tales from Outer Suburbia, these stories all have a surreal element. The artwork is amazingly detailed, and includes many alien-looking creatures.

The first story, “The Red Tree,” published alone would make an encouraging Oh, the Places You’ll Go!-type gift book, though not as cheery. A girl is having a dark and dreary day, which is vividly expressed with surreal images. But the story ends with a red tree growing in her bedroom, a smile of hope, and these words:

“but suddenly there it is right in front of you bright and vivid quietly waiting just as you imagined it would be.”

I think I can get away with telling the words at the end of the story, because the power to this story lies in the images. You definitely still need to read it yourself to understand the way that final image turns the dreariness around and gives life and hope.

The second story is “The Lost Thing.” A kid finds a strange and large lost creature, not like anything you’ve ever seen before, and needs to find it a home. This requires quite a journey, and there’s some philosophizing about things that don’t quite fit in. Once again, the power is in the pictures and Shaun Tan’s incredible imagination.

The final story, “The Rabbits,” is a sad one, with words by John Marsden and drawings by Shaun Tan. It’s a simple story of the devastation to the native plants and animals when colonists brought rabbits. The rabbits are drawn wearing clothes and acting like the human invaders did. The devastation they brought is bleak and clear, but the ending is open-ended. Perhaps the creatures can be saved.

Shaun Tan’s work, as always, is breathtaking. With this one, you definitely should see for yourself.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

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