Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shaun Tan (The Red Tree and others)

So this will be my first attempt (in this blog format at least) at conveying how much I love the whole genre of children's picture books... When I was a kid and the "appropriate' age for picture books, my Dad was reading us Robinson Crusoe and Pilgrim's Progress --- I learned to read when I was really young and I am not sure that I lingered much in the realm of picture books before reading the majority of the local library's content (adult novels and manuals about the care of exotic birds included) at the age of 10(ish). The books my dad read aloud when I was a kid where wordy, and certainly they sparked the imagination, but they had very few illustrative (visual) elements.

I re-discovered picture books with a passion in my early twenties. That was a tough period for me and I was seeking and embracing things that re-connected me to a time (being 'little'), that while never carefree, was at least without the adult fears and responsibilities I was facing in my late teens, early twenties...

One of the things I found I was drawn to the most in children's picture books were the illustrations. As an adult I have a much readier appreciation for having my imagination led by illustrations- well, not so much led --- my imagination still works and does stuff on it's own, I'm not saying that I need illustrations now as an adult to complete the transformational journey a story can be --- What it is for me now is a fascination and a thrill to be let into someone else's imaginative construct of what the words that make up the story convey to them. It's wonderful. I love it. "So this is what they see, what they want me to see" I say (in not so many words)! It's an epiphany of camaraderie and connectedness, even if I never meet or speak to the illustrator.

I want to create a series of homages to the best of the 'connections' I've had (and continue to have) with certain children's books & their illustrations/illustrator's... I'm starting in no particular order, but I will start with one that I don't own myself but that has stayed nearby to me because I gave it to my partner.

The Red Tree

Shaun Tan

What often amazes me is the extremely high and complex concept you'll find in many picture books --- The Red Tree is basically a chronicling of how we use metaphor in cognition and language to explain to our selves and others the feelings we are experiencing and to convey the thoughts we have... go here for a more detailed author's description of the book's premise and conceptual evolution.

With the the amazing array of really content rich and beautiful books that Shaun has been involved with I am likely to post further on his work in the future, fair warning!

And have I mentioned how much I love a well designed Web site? (Which to me means, good looking, personable, easily navigable and trimmed to the essential architectural features). If I wasn't already a fan of Shaun's, I would be cemented by this.


Tiff said...

Beautiful. One of my favourite authors ever, Shaun Tan is amazing and a brilliant artist. Makes picture books so deep. :)

LethaColleen said...