I'm more attracted to those things that aren't quite right, like the social and environmental injustice in The Rabbits, or the social apathy of The Lost Thing, or even ideas about self-destruction in The Viewer.
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.
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 is also published as Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish and Canadian/US editions.
This was a fascinating project, and a welcome opportunity to work in collaboration with artists from very different disciplines, and see how they went about interpreting the book, and in turn how audiences responded to this.
The ideas of the original book are very broad and I think point more to a method of expression – of ‘emotional worlds’ - rather than any very specific content, so it not only endures variable interpretations, it almost demands them.Just as all hope seems lost, the girl returns to her bedroom and finds a tiny red seedling growing in the middle of the floor.It quickly grows into a vivid red tree that fills her room with warm light.This seems appropriate, as everyone’s experience of ‘suffering’ or ‘hope’ is unique and personal.The picture book ‘the red tree’ written and illustrated by Shaun tan, conveys his perspective of the world with the effective use of literary and visual techniques such as symbolism, foreshadowing and the extended visual metaphor of the girl in the bottle on the ‘nobody understands’ page.At the beginning she awakes to find blackened leaves falling from her bedroom ceiling, threatening to quietly overwhelm her.She wanders down a street, overshadowed by a huge fish that floats above her.Each image remains open to various interpretations in the absence of any accompanying description.What minimal 'story' there is seeks to remind us that just as bad feelings are inevitable, they are always tempered by hope.The extended visual metaphor of the girl sitting in the bottle conveys the idea of her feelings trapped inside.The protagonist is shown sitting in the bottle which connects to the idea of a ‘message in a bottle’.