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Picturing a World

Shaun Tan's Creatures

When I was a child, my mother had a rule that you couldn't buy a book unless you had first borrowed it from the library and knew you wanted to read and reread it. Well, as soon as I got wind of Shaun Tan's new book, Creatures, I borrowed it through interlibrary loan. The art work, of course, is terrific. I turned each page. At his comments in the final section, I started flipping back and forth. The more I got out of the pictures, the more I knew I wanted to study them again and again—and also to think more about what Tan has to say, not only about these pieces in particular, but about art and stories in general. Right. I bought a copy (from an local independent bookstore, natch).

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Tan wins the Greenaway

Yea! Shaun Tan, the wonderful, original, astonishing artist who is also a wonderful, original, astonishing writer, has won the Kate Greenaway medal. It's hard for me to say which of his books is my favorite—maybe Tales from Outer Suburbia, maybe Rules of Summer, two picture books that capture the wackiness of childhood and modern life. I also love The Singing Bones, retellings of Grimms' fairy tales with Tan's odd sculptures to illustrate them. And now Tales from the Inner City, deeply strange and incisive. I pre-ordered it and read it slowly when it came out, a story at a time. Each leaves you saying, "Oh," softly, sadly, a little ashamed to be human, but grateful to the more-than-human world for being and to Tan for expanding your perception of it. For more about the award, click here.

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Shaun Tan is one of my favorite artist-authors—brilliant, sly, offbeat, insightful. When I saw an advanced review of Cicada, I pre-ordered it from a local independent bookstore on the assumption that anything Tan did would be wonderful. I picked it up. Read it. Reread daily. Feel throb. Laugh out loud. Tok tok tok. My advice? Seek it out!

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