Friday, 15 February 2013

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan (Hodder Children's Books)

We've previously expressed our love of anything Shaun Tan puts his hand to on the blog so amongst others on our wishlist this year was his brilliantly atmospheric book "The Red Tree".

If you're not instantly in love with the book purely from looking at the cover art, you'll love it once you start delving into the pages and getting lost in the dark (and sometimes fairly opressive) landscapes that are stock in trade of Tan's work.

The Red Tree probably shouldn't even be described as a children's picture book. It appears to deal with a fairly hefty theme - depression - in a way that children can grasp but adults will recognise with bells on. The lone female character in the book lives a fairly mundane life and you soon slip into that state of mind that 'Tan books' evoke.

We see her journey through the day and the metaphors and symbolism depicting depression quietly murmur with each page turn. Perhaps I see it because I've lived it, but it's definitely there, though I'd love to hear other folks impressions on this too.

For Charlotte, the book made her sad. She wanted to know why nothing seemed to cheer up the little girl in the story and why her world seemed like such a dark place. The book ends on a high note though, just in case all this dark and doom-laden talk puts you off.

If nothing else, it's once again an opportunity to lose yourself in the work of one of the most talented people working in picture books today and who could possibly pass up an opportunity like that?

Charlotte's best bit: The last page and the end to the story, so very beautifully done.

Daddy's favourite bit: Again with me it's the fact that this is another weighty theme dealt with in a way that is subtle and understated. Deliciously detailed art makes this one very special book. Are we ever going to find a Shaun Tan book we don't like?