This wondrous and beautiful volume pairs expressionistic poems with surreal illustrations to create a series of meditations on family relationships that explore isolation, fear, uncertainty, and friendship.
In 1960s Toronto, two girls retreat to their attics to escape the loneliness and isolation of their lives. Polly lives in a house bursting at the seams with people, while Rose is often left alone by her busy parents. Polly is a down-to-earth dreamer with a wild imagination and an obsession with ghosts; Rose is a quiet, ethereal waif with a sharp tongue. Despite their differences, both girls spend their days feeling invisible and seek solace in books and the cozy confines of their respective attics. But soon they discover they aren’t alone–they’re actually neighbors, sharing a wall. They develop an unlikely friendship, and Polly is ecstatic to learn that Rose can actually see and talk to ghosts. Maybe she will finally see one too! But is there more to Rose than it seems? Why does no one ever talk to her? And why does she look so… ghostly? When the girls find a tombstone with Rose’s name on it in the cemetery and encounter an angry spirit in her house who seems intent on hurting Polly, they have to unravel the mystery of Rose and her strange family… before it’s too late.
Pearl feels like an island in school, isolated and alone, but at home she feels loved and secure until her grandmother’s illness changes the way Pearl views her world.
After his grandparents emigrate, 12-year-old Enrique heads for the ocean, a source of comfort and solace. Why did they flee Cuba, leaving Enrique and his mother behind? Should they go, too? If not, will they, like so many others, be seen as disloyal? The sea has no answers for the boy. As the years pass, Enrique is invited to become a Pioneer, a special honor that bodes well for his future, but it means he’s forbidden from reading the letters his grandparents send home. Enrique wants to belong, to show that he’s deserving of the honor, and once again, he seeks the ocean’s solace. Once again, the ocean has no easy answers. Still, life goes on. There are games with his friends, swimming expeditions, girls to hang out with. And always, there’s the ocean, a place he can go in good times and bad as he tries to make sense of what the future holds for him, his family, and many other Cubans.
These are the odd details of everyday suburban life that might forever go unnoticed, were they not finally brought to light by Shaun Tan.
See the review at WOW Review, Volume 3, Issue 2
A thirteen-year-old boy’s diary offers an honest, raw, and unvarnished look at the difficulties of adolescence, expressing his searing emotions after he sees his father shot and killed and is forced to endure the killer’s trial.
In a deserted countryside of the future, Ren, a young girl whose mother has abandoned her, and three other children discover a baby whom they name Found, and they join together to fight for survival.
A man gives his wife and daughter a last kiss and boards a steamship to cross the ocean. He’s embarking on the most painful yet important journey of his life – he’s leaving home to build a better future for his family. Shaun Tan evokes universal aspects of an immigrant’s experience through a singular work of the imagination. He does so using brilliantly clear and mesmerizing images. Because the main character can’t communicate in words, the book forgoes them too. But while the reader experiences the main character’s isolation, he also shares his ultimate joy.
This book is a wordless picturebook.