JULY 20:

  • Happy birthday Mark Buehner (The Escape of Marvin the Ape, My Life with the Wave).
  • It’s the birth date of explorer Sir Edmund Hillary (1919-2008). Read Mount Everest and Beyond: Sir Edmond Hillary by Sue Muller Hacking and The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest by Steve Jenkins.
  • In 1881, Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrenders to U.S. troops. Read Sitting Bull Remembers by Ann Turner, illustrated by Wendell Minor.
  • It’s Moon Day! In 1968, Apollo 11 was the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon. Read Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca.
  • It’s also National Lollipop Day. Read Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall; Lady Lollipop by Dick King-Smith, illustrated by Jill Barton; Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives by Ruth Heller; and Amanda Pig and Her Best Friend Lollipop by Jean Van Leeuwen, illustrated by Ann Schweninger.

Over the last week we have been exploring superb books about our furry friend, the bunny rabbit. This year a book by Shaun Tan, Lost & Found, takes an entirely original look at this beloved creature.

Containing three separate books that were previously unavailable in the United States, Lost & Found presents The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, and The Rabbits. The last story was written by Australian writer John Marsden.  For my money Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began series happens to be among the best dystopian novels written for children, although they have been more popular in Australia than the United States. In The Rabbits, Marsden found inspiration in both Australian and American history, drawing on Allan W. Eckert’s history of Tecumseh, A Sorrow in Our Heart. In this incredibly disquieting story, the rabbits arrive by water and keep coming and coming. They crowd out the original settlers and decimate the landscape. In a desolate ending Marsden asks, “Where is the smell of rain dripping from the gum tree? Where are the great billabongs, the river-swollen lakes, alive with long-legged birds? Who will save us from the rabbits?” The Rabbits—with its exploration of history, the colonization, and ecology—is made even more power by Tan’s surreal illustrations. Tan opens the saga with a beautiful spread of long-legged birds, which at the end become small flecks against the dark, heading out from the land. The art becomes darker in palette as the story moves to its sad conclusion.

A great book for discussion for children ages 11-14, Lost & Found contains imagery that might well have come from the fevered imagination of Hieronymus Bosch, Tan creates picture books with philosophical, historical, or emotional issues at their core. Each story causes the reader to pause, think about the issues raised, and then go back and pore over the pictures because so much detail has been incorporated in the art.

As I discussed in the essay on The Arrival, I  am simply in awe of Shaun Tan’s talent. He is an artist’s artist, who in the twenty-first century is changing our vision of what can be accomplished in a picture book.

Here’s a page from Lost & Found:


Originally posted July 20, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: History, Politics, Social Conscience, Trendsetting
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Lost & Found


  1. Tobin says:

    THE RABBITS was the first book I ever saw of Tan’s. I was blown away. What a desolate, powerful book — but with all the richness and complexity of the best allegories.

    I think he’ll be remembered as one of the finest of our age.


  2. Anita says:

    Tobin: I agree with your assessment of his status over time. Thanks for the comment — definitely “a desolate, powerful book.”

  3. Selena says:

    I love Tan’s work and so I have borrowed these books for my children to read or for me to read to them (ages 9, 8, 5, 3) but alas, despite my efforts, my children are not interested in these books. It seems to me that these are books that adults love but children don’t. Does anyone else have that impression?

    Anita, I have been reading this page for months; it is immensely helpful and also enjoyable. Thank you.


  4. Anita says:

    Selena: I think you are just using these books with children a bit too young for them. I’d give 11-14 as the ideal age for Shaun Tan books. These are very sophisticated and the book demands an older reader. I have heard a lot of reports of The Arrival working well with 6th-8th grade students.

    My apologies to you and any other reader I might have led astray. You remind me that I should always try to give an age range when talking about books.

  5. G.Perry says:

    All-righty then. I’ll have to go find this one today and read it.

    I will say however that when I read The Red Tree by Shaun Tan, I was stunned by the healing emotional power of that work. In fact, my branch librarian was going through a difficult time recently and she had not Read the Red Tree, by Tan.

    I had one of her assistants put that book on her desk. She read it, and came to my table, close to tears, to say “Thank you!” And like me, went out and bought the thing!

    Yup This site rules the world.

  6. Erica S. says:

    Selena, I concur with Anita – I’m one of those “reports” of Shaun Tan’s books working very well with 6th-8th graders. They really get a lot out of the text and the illustrations and have some pretty amazing reactions to the deep philosophical issues in Tan’s work. I highly recommend just waiting a few years and then trying again!

    I just purchased a copy of Lost and Found for my library and can’t wait to read it. I absolutely LOVED the short film that they made out of the title story. Stunning work.

  7. As Roy Orbison would say ….

    “I don’t believe you, you’re not the truth

    One glance at the cover of today’s Book-of-the-Day and I knew… I knew … I knew … I simply knew.

    The very first glance. And I knew.

    You revealed a new genius to me! Shaun Tan.


    Read Aloud Dad meets book,
    falls in love,
    orders three Shaun Tan’s books

    (The Arrival, Lost & Found and Tales From Outer Suburbia)

    Thanks Anita!

    Read Aloud Dad


  8. Anita says:

    Read Aloud Dad: Always great to hear from you….

  9. Crystal says:

    I love your daily literature pieces. Thanks for all you do. I think the Apollo 11 flight was actually in 1969. I was born soon after so the newspapers were all full of that at the time.

  10. Anita says:

    Crystal: Thanks for your good catch — 1969 it was indeed!

  11. Lynette says:

    Anita, thank you for bringing Shaun Tan’s work to everyones attention (the second story is actually called The Lost Thing). I agree, the stories are most suitable for above age 11. I think they are even suitable for High School students as they explore some very complex and powerful themes.

    The pairing of John Marsden’s words and Shaun Tan’s illustrations in The Rabbits is a brilliant piece of work.

    Each of these books invite repeated readings that enable readers to draw different and deeper understandings as they engage in the text and complicated illustrations. Shaun certainly brings picture books to a whole new level!

  12. Momo says:

    How odd in Australia this book, which I adore, is called The Lost Thing. I wonder why the publisher changed the title for the US market?

  13. Philip Nel says:

    Shaun Tan is a genius. He is the Maurice Sendak of our time.

    I hope you don’t mind me pointing out a typographical error. Lost & Found is the name of this collection, but The Lost Thing is the name of the picture book included in the collection (and which, as an animated adaptation, also won an Oscar). My blog is full of typographical errors, and I always appreciate being corrected. So,… I offer this in that spirit!

    Delighted you’ve featured Tan (again)!

  14. Grace Howard says:

    I just came across THE ARRIVAL for the first time this summer. It was brilliant, and I adore Tan’s work. I haven’t checked out this collection – but based on your description, it’s certainly going on my “to-read” list.

  15. Anita says:

    Thanks Phil for comment and help on accuracy.

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