In his gentle way, Shaun Tan has slowly but surely pushed out the boundary of what's possible in picture books.
While his work is brilliant for children, it also delights grown-ups. He neither patronises young readers nor limits older readers.
Tan wonders at the strangeness of life, and invites us to be amazed and puzzled and curious along with him. Dark and sometimes scary, his books are always ultimately joyous because they celebrate our imaginations and our humanity.
Now that he has won both an Academy Award for the film of his book, The Lost Thing, and to top off a remarkable year, also been awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, Perth-based Tan is well and truly an international writer.
His picture books such as The Red Tree, The Rabbits and The Arrival will now travel even further afield.
The Arrival is classic Tan: wordless, very beautiful, quirky.
Tan tells us that it’s a migrant story, and he chose a kind of vintage look to suggest that this is a story from long ago, although the story applies to all times. A man leaves his family to go elsewhere, trying to find a better life. In the country he arrives in, everything is strange, quite magical, almost familiar but often bizarre.
“I am often searching in each image for things that are odd enough to invite a high degree of personal interpretation and still maintain a ring of truth”, is the way Tan explains it.
Australia has more than its fair share of brilliant illustrators and Tan is perhaps top of that list.
– Rosemary Sorensen