A small child awakes to find blackened leaves falling from her bedroom ceiling, threatening to quietly overwhelm her. ‘Sometimes you wake up with nothing to look forward to …’ As she wanders around a world that is complex, puzzling and alienating, she is overtaken by a myriad of feelings. Just as it seems all hope is lost, the girl returns to her bedroom to find that a tiny red seedling has grown to fill the room with warm light. Shaun Tan’s, The Red Tree, is a book about feelings – feelings that can not always be simply expressed in words. It is a series of imaginary landscapes conjured up by the wizardry of Shaun Tan’s masterful and miraculous art. As a kind of fable, The Red Tree seeks to remind us that, though some bad feelings are inevitable, they are always tempered by hope.
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan
$30.00 inc. GST
The Red Tree is a story presented as a series of distinct imaginary worlds, self-contained images which invite readers to draw their own meaning in the absence of any explanatory narrative. As a concept, the book is inspired by the impulse of children and adults alike to describe feelings using metaphor – monsters, storms, sunshine, rainbows and so on. Moving beyond cliché, I wanted to paint images that would further explore the expressive possibilities of this kind of shared imagination, which could be at once strange and familiar. A nameless young girl appears in every picture, a stand-in for ourselves; she passes helplessly through many dark moments, yet ultimately finds something hopeful at the end of her journey.
The Red Tree won the Patricia Wrightson prize in the NSW Premier’s Book Awards, and was awarded the ‘le Prix Octogones 2003’ prize by the Centre International d’Etudes en Litterature de Jeunesse, following it’s translation into French. It has been translated into multiple languages, and in the US appears in the volume Lost and Found, published by Scholastic.
For more of Shaun’s background to Red Tree go HERE.
Shaun Tan grew up in Perth and graduated from the University of Western Australia with joint honours in Fine Arts and English Literature. He 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. His works include The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, Rules of Summer and the acclaimed wordless novel The Arrival. All have been widely translated throughout Europe, Asia and South America, and are enjoyed by readers of all ages.
Shaun has also worked as a theatre designer and a concept artist for the films Horton Hears a Who and Pixar’s WALL-E and in 2011, he shared an Academy Award for his work on the animated short film based on his book, The Lost Thing. In that same year, he won the Dromkeen Medal for services to children’s literature and the Astrid Lindgren prize, the world’s richest children’s literature award.
Published by Simply Read Books, 2003. Hardcover, 32 pages.