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April 28, 2011

Lost & Found: A Book Review

I don't do reviews very often because mostly people know about books already.  But: there is this book, and I am super-excited about it!  So away we go to reviewing-land.


A Review of Lost & Found, by Shaun Tan

At this point, everyone in comics!land has heard of Shaun Tan, because he is wonderful and amazing and also the creator of The Arrival.  But: now he has a new book which is lovely and gorgeous, and which everyone should know about as well.

Part of what's amazing is just the design of this book.  Because I'm obsessive, I noted that the cover design credit goes to Phil Falco -- who designs the Scholastic Graphix line -- and the interior design jointly to Phil and Shaun.  So, you see the type on the cover, and how it looks like it's all cut-out letters of newsprint?  That's all illuminated with spot gloss and raised -- and then the letters on top of the cut-out newsprint squares are raised or debossed accordingly.  So you have a double-dimensional cover effect. 

It looks terrific.

Also there is lovely interior design; this book is made up of three short stories (which I think were first published as individual picture books back in Australia?), and Shaun & Phil went out of their way to make there be transitional interstitials between each piece that actually make them feel like they are a singular book and not just an assorted collection.  That's impressive especially since the aesthetics are pretty different in the second story to the rest of the pieces in this book. 

I first saw a copy of this book at Community Bookstore; once I picked it off the shelf I couldn't put it down, which seemed like a sign for needing to buy it at once.  So I did.

The really excellent bit about Lost & Found is that all this bubbling over about design that I have just done is just the icing on the cake.  The inside of Shaun's mind is clearly a lovely and crazy place where animals are as likely to be teapot-Cthulhus (as pictured on the cover) as they are to be rabbits, and in each story he builds such a complete visual world that you want to go live in it (and you'd get your very own teapot-Cthulhu, of course). 

One example of how this book is great and then I'll stop burbling and go back to -- um, writing instructional handouts is what's on my plate for today.  Because otherwise, I'd just end up going on and on and on and this review would end up longer than the book is.

The Rabbits is the final story in Lost & Found.  It's a story about the colonization of Australia, and also, Shaun helpfully informs us in the afterword, a story about environmentalism and consumerism.  So Shaun draws Australia, and it is full of small round animals and everything is red and brown and yellow and blue and absolutely gorgeous, in a please-lets-take-the-next-plane-to-Australia kind of way.  And then the rabbits come to colonize it, and they are white, and they have long straight ears that exist so they are always at 90 degrees to something.

So you have this great organic land of Australia, and then you have the white rabbits full of angles.  And they have very straight black guns and straight marching lines and eventually, construction made of white squares and parallel lines and it overcomes all that is Australia except some little bit of brown. 

If there was a 'Using Visual Language Excellently' award, this book would get it, hands-down. 


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