Lost & Found by Shaun Tan
"Sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to / and things go from bad to worse / darkness overcomes you / nobody understands / the world is a deaf machine / without sense or reason."
This begins The Red Tree, the first of three stories collected in the book, Lost & Found, by author + illustrator, Shaun Tan. The illustrations are evocative, surreal, and emotionally striking, a visual mixtape of tones and images of alienation and isolation that recall the likes of David Lynch, Tim Burton, and Chris Van Allsburg.
I lingered on one richly imagined page for five full minutes, allowing the words, "wonderful things are passing you by," play on repeat in my head as I became the red haired girl in the illustration, locked behind a window, staring out at a flying machine trailed by butterflies and heading toward a crimson sunset through the clouds. The reading experience was both an escape to a strange place as well as a deeply empathetic moment for that feeling of alone-ness and apart-ness from the world. This collision of complex -- and often dissimilar -- human emotions is the brilliance of Shaun Tan's work.
There is more hope in each story than I'm letting on. But it is a hope tempered by the notion that even a happy outcome cannot erase sadness or fill a lingering emptiness. This is a book that both adults and children will feel a powerful connection to, and it will draw readers back to find something that they might not have lost, but have missed without knowing it.