Shaun Tan was born in 1974 and grew up in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. In school he became known as the 'good drawer' which partly compensated for always being the shortest kid in every class. He graduated from the University of WA in 1995 with joint honours in Fine Arts and English Literature, and currently works full time as a freelance artist and author in Melbourne. Shaun began drawing and painting images for science fiction and horror stories in small-press magazines as a teenager, and has since become best known for illustrated books that deal with social, political and historical subjects through surreal, dream-like imagery. Books such as THE RABBIT, THE RED TREE, THE LOST THING, and the acclaimed wordless novel THE ARRIVAL, have been widely translated throughout Europe, Asia and South America, and enjoyed by readers of all ages. Shaun has also worked as a theatre designer, and worked as a concept artist for the films 'Horton Hears a Who' and Pixar's 'WALL-E'. His short film, 'The Lost Thing' (based on his book), was released on DVD in November 2010 (Madman Entertainment).
Gr 3 Up-Tan's collage artwork for this picture book is full of the wonderfully strange. When a humungous "lost thing" at the beach catches the eye of a boy previously occupied with his bottle-cap collection, no one else seems to notice-not even his parents, although it takes up a good part of their living space when he brings it home. The boy sets off to find a place for the thing within an industrial landscape awash in gray matter-pipes, gears, and a few concrete structures. On the periphery of the central illustrations are postcards, road signs, words and diagrams from an engineering textbook, and faux government fliers such as the one from "The Federal Department of Odds & Ends," where the motto is "sweepus underum carpetae." Readers are bound to become adept perceivers as they move through the book and delight in discovering these exterior notes. Tan's illustrations offer playful tributes that could serve as introductions to such artists as Miro, Duchamp, Dali, Kandinski, Hopper, John Brack, and Jeffrey Smart. This book asks important questions: What does it mean to see things differently? What is important to notice? The lost thing suggests that what can not be fit neatly into a box has great potential to wake us (if we pay attention) and help us see the world anew. Tan is a singular talent.-Teresa Pfeifer, Alfred Zanetti Montessori Magnet School, Springfield, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Tan's affecting and sophisticated picture books, including The Red Tree, pack an emotional and visual wallop, but saturate readers with ennui. This melancholy story, despite pale whimsy, cannot muster much hope for those "lost things" with uncertain raisons d'?tre. The narrator is a stoop-shouldered, Dilbert-like nerd who finds the Lost Thing while collecting those quintessential cast-offs-bottle caps-on an industrial beach. Tan pictures the Lost Thing as a garbage-truck-size red vessel with crablike gray claws and tentacles, equal parts organism, machine and teakettle. Surely it is too weird to pass unnoticed, yet everyone ignores it. The storyteller and thing interact like a boy and dog, playing fetch, making a sandcastle (or sand-factory, really). After feeding the thing in his gloomy backyard shed, the hero tries to deliver it to the windowless Federal Department of Odds & Ends. Yet he cannot bear to leave it there: "This is a place for forgetting," a machine/man hybrid janitor portends. Only through effort does he find an alternative suggested by the janitor, "a dark little gap off some anonymous little street," which opens into a Dal!-esque habitation of other frolicking, forgotten things. Tan's intricate multimedia paintings reference Hopper's empty windows and the alienated cityscapes of Lang's Metropolis. This weighty book is best suited to mature children or older comics/science-fiction readers, who will goggle at the marvelous illustrations. Ages 7-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.