I’ve known of Shaun Tan for quite a while now without actually reading any of his (picture) books / graphic novels / masterpieces, but it’s only when you actually experience the almost achingly beautiful world of Shaun Tan that you will fully understand what people are raving about. In short, Shaun Tan is a graphic genius, whose imagination just knows no bounds and inspires readers to look beyond the ordinary and into the realm of the surrealist extraordinary.
In The Arrival he tells a tale (the tale) of immigration – completely wordless, yet as poignant as can be. In an extended metaphor – executed to perfection – Shaun Tan shows how an individual experiences arriving and living in a completely alien world. This book should be compulsory reading for any small-minded nationalist in any country around the world.
The Lost Thing
In The Lost Thing, Tan’s book that was adapted into a short film and won the Oscar for Best Animated Shortfilm in 2011, a boy finds a lost thing on the beach and wonders what to do with it. This sounds simple, and it also is, but Tan’s artwork makes this story both funny and dark, incredibly meaningful and absurd, and ultimately deliciously layered and complex.
The Red Tree
The Red Tree is nothing short of brilliant. A girl wakes up, feeling sad, lonely and desperate. In the most poetic of ways (look for the red leaf…) Tan and the girl show us what happens in those dark moments of self-doubt and helplessness… until… and this you have to see and read for yourself. This is an absolutely fantastic picture book.
Below are just a few examples of Shaun Tan’s brilliance: