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Lost and Found by Shaun Tan

Lost and Found by Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan has created a book with visually stimulating pictures and rich text in Lost and Found.  This book is a compilation of four stories addressing the concepts of loss and hope.  The tale is enhanced through the vivid and inventive illustrations accompanying the stories.  Tan's muted tones create sometimes somber settings juxtaposed with the vivid introduction of a surprise element.  For example, in the first story “The Red Tree,” Tan takes the reader on a melancholy journey through sadness and despair with a stunning surprise in the simplicity of a red leaf.  The reader finds herself thrust into a hopeful and encouraging element that compels the character to smile.

The four stories in this book do not necessarily deal with unique topics.  Loss is a common theme in literature.  What is unique about Lost and Found is the way that Tan ties together the story and the illustrations.  This is definitely a picture book for an older reader, or even for an adult.  The stories themselves are touching and entertaining, and they are enhanced by the skilled artistry of Shaun Tan.  In the story “The Red Tree,” the red leaf is present on every page as if to imply that hope and strength are always present but not always recognized.  In the author's notes in the back of the book, Tan mentions that, when asked about the book, children are the first to notice the red leaf present on each page, but that adults rarely do.

The final story in the book is “The Rabbits,” words by John Marsden.  It was originally published in 1998.  Tan says that the story is one of "universes colliding; one culture driven by powerful technology that transcends nature (much like our own) and another whose spirit is embedded in an ancient ecology."  Is this a cautionary tale for the present day?  Tan seems to express that sentiment through his illustrations with very powerful imagery.

Lost and Found is a book that can be poured over for hours by young and old alike.  Don't let the fact that it is cataloged in juvenile fiction fool you -- this is a picture book for an older reader.