First things first, I’ll have you know that I very rarely cry while reading books. Yes, they can make me extremely sad or angry or ecstatic or confused, but it is very rare for me to come across a book that makes me shed a tear or two. Except for Bridge to Terabithia. God, that book makes me gush like a little girl. And of course, the final Harry Potter book for obvious reasons. With the exception of those two books, I have never cried while reading. Until yesterday. As I was sifting through my enormous pile of children’s books which I really should get rid of, but can’t bear to part with, I came across a very special and peculiar book – The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan.
Set in a bleak dystopian near-future, the story follows a strange, lonely boy who discovers a “lost thing” while collecting bottles on the beach – a large, freakish creature which looks like a cross between a huge pot-bellied stove and a giant squid. Having guessed that it is lost, the boy tries to find out who owns it or where it belongs, but the problem is met with indifference by everyone else, who barely notice it’s presence. Each is unhelpful in their own way; strangers, friends, parents are all unwilling to entertain this uninvited interruption to day-to-day life. In spite of his better judgement, the boy feels sorry for this hapless creature, and attempts to find out where it belongs.
For some reason, as I was sitting next to my bookshelf flicking though the beautifully-illustrated pages of this book, I found myself crying uncontrollably. Perhaps it was the idea of a world drained of colour and life; a joyless Orwellian future of uniform houses and faceless figures. Perhaps it was the idea of not belonging anywhere, of being treated with indifference. Or perhaps it was simply the idea of not noticing anymore.
In short, this book is everything a good book should be – sad, whimsical and poignant and I strongly encourage all of you to take a look at it. If you are interested at all, here is a link to the short film based on the book and narrated by Tim Minchin. Enjoy and let me know what you think about this wonderful work!