As many of you know, I am currently in New York attending BookExpo America (BEA), which is the major book publishing conference of the year. While I'm listening to panels and getting the scoop on the future of the business, I am struck by just how many fabulous authors and books there are. Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader generously offered to share her thoughts about an Australian author we should all add to our reading list.
As everyone was getting ready for BEA, I saw a lot of posts and comments on Twitter about which authors people would line up for. Looking at the lists, it looked like there were a few clashes of author times, and so decisions would have to be made about which authors were “must meet” as opposed to “’would like to meet”, which made me ponder this question: If I could only line up to see one Australian author ever again, who would it be?
I know that there are plenty of fantastic Aussie authors out there – straight off the top of my head there was Markus Zusak (author of the amazing The Book Thief amongst other books), Garth Nix who writes really good YA fantasy, Jules Watson author of really good historical fiction with a Celtic setting, Geraldine Brooks who won the Pulitzer a couple of years ago, and the list goes on.
To be honest though there wasn’t a lot of thought required. Instantly my thoughts turned to Shaun Tan.
I first read The Arrival by Shaun Tan back in November 2007, and I have been recommending him constantly ever since. That book ended up being my favourite read of 2007. The thing that makes that surprising is that The Arrival is a picture book/graphic novel. There are no words whatsoever and yet the story that is told is powerful and moving. In fact, The Arrival is a book where there are only shades of grey, as all of the images were done in pencil. The detail is nonetheless incredible.
The story that is told in The Arrival is one of a recent immigrant to a strange country, alone and unsure and having to find a way to get used to living in this new land. One of my favourite things that I did with this book was to give it to my son, who was then 9 and get him to tell me the story that he saw in this book. Whilst there was some crossover with the story that I saw in the pages, there were also some aspects that he saw that I didn’t. Best of all, nearly three years later I was looking at something about this book, and he remembered reading it to me – it’s become one of our ‘moments’ if you like.
Since then I have read The Red Tree, Tales From Outer Suburbia and The Rabbits and found the imagery that he uses in his books fascinating and unusual. If I could only use one word to describe the imagery it would be incredible.
I really enjoy seeing other people get to know this author’s books, especially The Arrival, but also his other books. If anyone hears of appearances in Melbourne, let me know, because I want to be there!
In closing, I thought I would share a couple of videos with you.
The first is from a production that was done of The Arrival by Red Leap Theatre and seems to have stayed pretty faithful to some of the imagery from the book:
And the second is an animation that has been done of The Red Tree, which I am including as it gives you a really good feel of the kind of imagery that Tan uses.