Lost & Found
Probably one of my favorite books of the year, and quite possibly EVER, Shaun Tan's Lost & Found, is three darkly fascinating tales in one: The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, and the John Marsden classic, The Rabbits.
Tan's illustrations are nothing short of brilliant. Every page I turned, I yearned to have a canvas copy to hang on my wall. If there were a gallery exhibit of Shaun Tan's artwork, I could probably spend my entire life there, just looking at the colors and letting the profound meanings of the images seep into my soul.
Now, if that sounds too much like a love letter to you, you're right. This isn't just a review, this is indeed a love letter to Shaun Tan and Lost & Found. Heck, even to Arthur A. Levine Books. I want to wrap all of them up into one of those squishy, awkward bear hugs and hold on until they can't breathe.
Not only will the illustrations keep readers captivated for hours, both kids and adults will relate to the poignant messages of hope and perseverance amidst pessimism, depression, defeat. Some might see these stories as deeply depressing and stark, but I saw myself on the page, which made reading this collection identifiable and uplifting.
In fact, everyone will take something different from these three stories, and that's what makes them so special and worth-while.
One illustration I felt especially drawn to was the image of a girl trapped inside, her nose pressed to the window pane, as "wonderful things are passing [her] by." Wow. How many times have we felt exactly like that? And if you look closely, the windows are secured with a padlock that reads: REGRET. How many times have we felt like our dreams were passing us by because of certain decisions we've made?
I love how Tan adds a tiny little red leaf in the bottom corner, reminding us that all is not lost. There is light amid the dark.
The second book, The Lost Thing, examines a world where there is no room for "different." Individual thought is shunned, while conformity is embraced. I was happy to find that "the lost thing" found a place where he belonged in the end. It reminds us that we all, no matter our quirks or differences, have a place where we belong. Keep searching (and following those arrows!) until you find it.
The third book, The Rabbits, explores the effects of colonialism on native cultures. Much like how white men invaded and claimed America and Australia, the white rabbits take over land that does not belong to them by means of war, industrialization, and strength in numbers. They simply keep multiplying until no sign of the native culture exists.
Tan's inclusion of a sign that reads: MIGHT = RIGHT is tragically fitting.
I urge you to pick this book up today. Share it with a friend, your class, anyone, and have a conversation about it. How do these stories speak to you?
Endless discussion awaits!