I actually read The Red Tree last year and has re-read it a few more times since then. It is largely a picture book, with the most beautiful whole page or 2-page illustrations featuring a melancholy red-headed little girl. “sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to” is how it’s started.
“The Red Tree began an experimental narrative more than anything else: the idea of a book without a story. I’ve always loved Chris Van Allsburg’s classic picture book ‘The Mysteries of Harris Burdick’ (1984) which is a great example of word-picture enigmas, exhibiting partial fragments of unknown stories and leaving the reader to use their imagination. It has no sequential narrative, which is something a picture book is ideal for – you can open it at any page, go backwards or forwards, and spend as much time as you wish with each image.” ~ Shaun Tan’s comment on The Red Tree
I was intrigued when he mentioned Chris Van Allsburg. Never heard of him before. A quick browse of his name showed that not only he’s a very successful author and illustrator, of books that have been made into films like Jumanji and Polar Express, but also how close his artwork style is to Tan’s. It’s easy to see where Tan got his inspirations from. The images reminded me distinctly of The Arrival. I’ll be sure to look out for his books in near future!
Going back to The Red Tree, it contains ones of the strongest images that I have seen several times featured by other bloggers. And the book is as good as everyone raves it to be. It’s really hard to imagine The Red Tree to be read by little children, fairly dark and depressing as it is, even though it ends with a hopeful note. (In case you missed it–I did, there’s a small almost unnoticed red leaf at every page, symbolizing hope)
“sometimes you just don’t know what you are supposed to do”
“or who you are meant to be”
The Red Tree is such a beautiful book. Every page could stand on its own as a surreal painting. I love having it in my Shaun Tan personal library.
The Red Tree as puppet-based theatre production (Queensland, 2004) — with some spectacular images