by Shaun Tan
Words like “beautiful” and “haunting” get thrown around all the time when people talk about images, talk about stories they aren’t sure how to talk about. And what do they mean?
For this book, “beautiful” means paintings and collages that are intricate, surprising, imaginative, and make me want to keep looking at them, to run my fingers over the pages as I take a closer look. “Haunting”: one of the dictionary definitions is “to be continually present in; pervade” and I’d say the book has that quality about it: I must have read through it three times now, and I’ve been thinking about it for a fair chunk of the rest of my time. And it has only been in the house since yesterday.
This is dark for a children’s book, if you want to call it that. (It is a picture book, and probably will be shelved there in the bookstore, but it should appeal to a much wider audience.) Hope haunts it, though, and that makes it an important book for children: they need to know, to be reminded in stories the way adults do, that you can recognize fear and unhappiness and that those conditions don’t need to last forever, even though it feels that way sometimes.
This is great; go look for it at a bookstore, open it and find a world you will most likely want to take home, whether you have a kid living with you or not.