[GN] The Red Tree – Shaun Tan

March 16, 2010 § 16 Comments

I don’t really know how to talk about a book that has so little words, but such a powerful message. It could be that because there is only a handful of words on any given page that our eyes are so drawn to the images that Shaun Tan gives us. And what images there are. So powerful, so full of emotion. His illustrations are just so present, so there, it’s like you’re actually in the image itself.

I’m sure by now, some of the illustrations from this book are already quite known. Like this one:

And this one:

Both of which are so powerful, they just suck you into it. They are actually so precise, I think you’d have to actually look at the images in the book to get the real deal. The images are dark, gloomy. Shaun Tan goes right to the core of what it might feel like for someone who’s depressed and feeling at odds with the world. The illustrations may look abstract, but accompanied by those few words on the page, the image comes to life, it breathes its own meaning.

If I could, I’d take photos of the whole book and post them all here. But I can’t. And I won’t. The book is just too precious for you not to read it yourself. But I did take a couple of photos of the images that spoke most to me.


If you’d much rather not know the ending, skip this paragraph.. Ana had recently posted her thoughts on this book, and in her post she mentioned there was a kind of debate on the ending. For a book that explores so deeply into depression, the ending might come off for some as being very lightweight, almost not taking it seriously enough. But I thought it ended beautifully. I think the last two images are very important and closely linked to each other. From my reading of the book, the ‘red tree’ is not really a huge tree that shines, like in the last image, but is that little leaf in the second last image. I think that with depression, sometimes a small bright shining thing as small as a grain of sand that tells you all is not lost is simply bright enough to light up the whole sky.


Anyway, it’s a beautiful book, and I have to give thanks to both Ana, for the great review, and Mee, for insisting that I try out Shaun Tan. Next on my list is The Arrival.

Rating: 4.5


§ 16 Responses to [GN] The Red Tree – Shaun Tan

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