eric by Shaun Tan

 

If you aren’t familiar with the works of Shaun Tan, then I’m glad you’ve chanced across this post! This Australian illustrator-writer-creator-imaginer has an uncanny knack to take the mundane, flip it around and present it back to the world in the form of breathtaking picture books.

eric is from Tales of Outer Suburbia, an anthology that deals with the concepts of ‘otherness’ and ‘belonging’. The story, whence read without the images, is that of a foreign exchange student with strange mannerisms that are simply chalked down to ‘it must be a cultural thing.’

eric, in form, is a thumb-sized alien-esque creature, lean, dark and absolutely adorable. His travelling bags are made of acorn shells and his prefered bedroom is the kitchen pantry. The eager young narrator seeks to show him the wonders of zirs* home and suburbia, and when there is a lack of understanding and communication, falls back to the comfort of ‘it must be a cultural thing.’

The narrative stays unassuming of eric’s opinion, as often is when faced with an unknown culture. The illustrations, on the other hand, make the reader fall more and more in love with the little curious creature. In unravelling the transparent metaphor, the reader can replace the figure of the shadowy alien, with a human from another culture and re-read this miniature eric-sized book of heartache.

Shaun Tan’s illustrations are intricate and detailed as always. Seemingly everyday objects are imbued with strange meanings and contexts; for example, a simple teacup turns into eric’s bed. An observant reader can spend hours poring over the pages and will always find a new and enthralling detail.

 

* Gender neutral narrators get their gender neutral pronouns too. Ze= he/she; zirs = hers/his, etc.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

PS. A starting point for discussion can be this question: Why is eric written small letters? How does this contribute to the ‘otherness’ of this book?

PPS. While looking through the illustrations, look out for repeated objects and different perspectives of the same thing. What do you learn about eric’s everyday life and his hosts’ world?

#ShaunTanFan!

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Sylvia and Bird by Catherine Rayner

The story begins, as many stories do, in a faraway land with a singular dragon. But this dragon is a lonely one. She’d travelled far and wide but hadn’t found any dragons to make friends with. Instead, Sylvia makes friends with a Bird.

Rayner’s beautifully illustrated story shows that friendship transcends differences, in size, race and social circumstances. In charge of both the words and the pictures, Rayner weaves the story effortlessly through the gorgeous blue-green spreads.

Rayner’s books are primarily about animals, and she spends hours and hours watching them and making pencil sketches. Then, she goes into her colourful studio to create her illustrations. She mainly uses a liquid acrylic ink with a dip pen.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

PS: With all the new Art1st in production, we can’t help but admire the little publishing details, like the endearing copyright page design.

The Day I Became A Bird by Ingrid Chabbert, Guridi

 

Ahh! First love.

Ingrid Chabbert tells a sweet story of a boy who falls in love with a girl called Sylvia, a girl who loves birds. ‘The Day I Became A Bird’ captures the simple purity of unabashed puppy love. The story is so charming and innocent, that it is almost uncomfortable to sully it with an adult’s point of view.

“When I look at her, I forget everything else.” Raúl Nieto Guridi’s minimalist sketches evocatively focus on the two young ‘uns, while the out-lying blankness allows for endless stories and fantasies to be imagined in. The detailed sketches of Sylvia’s birds, as well as the science of building a bird costume add layers to fuel a young reader’s imagination.

The arrangement of the text and the illustrations isn’t parallel. Almost like a film, on a single page, two different segments of the narrative are offered, until the inherent suspense of a love-story is dismantled piece by puzzle piece.

Love, friendship and acceptance is often a difficult prospect in school (okay, okay, and otherwise too). This book considers the hurdles but moves sweetly beyond to the things that are important.

 

Do you have a fun story of childhood love? Share in the comments below.

Likla
Writer at Art1st