Friday, 1 January 2010

The Lost Thing book review

Hi everybody, I'm sorry I haven't done anything on BSC for ages 'n' ages - I was planning to do a Christmas post but I just had no time - so much stuff! Now that I've settled down a little (I'm currently in Nelson) I've finally been able to sit down and do some serious reviewing! This book is not really what I usually do here but since Shaun Tan is such a brilliant and awesome artist I just had to. Here's the low down:

Story & art by SHAUN TAN

SYNOPSIS: A young bottle-top collector stumbles upon a strange creature on the beach. It seems friendly enough but seems to have no real place -- it is just lost. He takes the lost thing home but realizes he can't keep it hidden forever. A shady organization offers to take it away but the boy eventually finds a place for the lost thing to live -- a utopia of other lost things. At the book's end, the boy reflects on how he doesn't see many lost things anymore; "Maybe there aren't many lost things around anymore. Or maybe I've just stopped noticing them. Too busy doing other things, I guess."

THE ART: Shaun Tan is a brilliant surrealist with a wacky fetish and a slight steampunk fixation. He is an expert painter, and this books demonstrates fully the masterful work he does. The exaggerated, surreal and yet quite mundane setting is expertly rendered and, despite the slight looseness of the painting, it looks amazingly realistic. The architecture and objects suggest a grubby, rubbish-infested, conformist, half-utopian half-dystopian society that has little time or place for anything out of the ordinary. The background on which the photo-like illustrations are placed is a collage of Shaun's father's old physics textbooks, which gives a scrapbook look that is simply beautiful. Though the characters are cartoony and surreal, they interact very well together. Shaun's plain weird design for the lost thing amazes me; a giant pebble-crab-cum-squid creature inside a large bright red pot-belly stove - that eats Christmas decorations? That's cool. Shaun obviously wanted to create something that would be completely out of place in this suburban town - it's umcomfortably large, organic, and has no apparent purpose - hence the little time others have for it. Truly, this sophisticated picture book is a work of pure art. A surrealist triumph.

THE STORY: With this book I was tempted to focus only on the art and not touch on the story, but it must be done. Though this book can be enjoyed by all ages, it works on multiple levels and has immensely deep meaning; the "retro-future" setting references to dystopian futures, the suburban setting showing the spread of humanity across everywhere - there are virtually no animals or plants left (only pets). The lost thing is the embodiment of anyone that has been excluded from life, anyone who never seems to fit in and is alienated by everyone. Shaun Tan has packed this book to bursting with symbolism, and if you know where to look you'll fins it in almost every panel. One of the recurring symbolistic devices is the squiggly arrow that the boy uses to locate the lost thing utopia appears on every page, usually juxtaposed by another, straight and ordinary, arrow that points the other way; signifiying the utopia goes against the norm, that no-one's interested in it. The boy's ending words (seen in the synopsis) clearly show that much-used - though not cliched - theme of kids losing their imagination and ability to notice magical/ weird creatures. The matter-of-fact prose gives nothing away of the nature of the creature or setting, instead the art combines beautifully with it to create a quirky and well-executed book. And the last images of the tram, zooming out into an eerie image of thousands of trams driving along. A conformist reference that intrigues and scares. So, the results overall:

ART RATING: 10 out of 10
STORY RATING: 9.5 out of 10
OVERALL RATING: 10 out of 10

FAVE QUOTE: Boy: I hid the thing in our back shed and gave it something to eat, once I found out what it liked. [The lost thing likes to eat Christmas decorations. Go figure.]

VERDICT: A beatiful book with stunning art that blows you away. Able to be enjoyed by all ages but with deeper meaning that suggests a darker side. Prose and art combine synbiotically to make a masterful sophisiticated picture book. This one will probably be at your local library, and check out Tan's website! Rated 10 out of 10.

Posted by Fanbot at 11:59 am, FRIDAY 1 January


  1. looks like a must read... where can you access this book? library? PS cant seem to post a comment on your library of infinity site?

  2. Hello .. I have never seen a smart articles that you created. It really helped me to get back my ideas for writing. I will save this post, for I learn more.


Ion blasts of death are the right of all sentient beings who oppose me.