Red as Blood, White as Clay

The Singing Bones
Shaun Tan
Allen & Unwin Children
September 2015

SingingBones_247x189_CVR.inddThe release of a new book by Shaun Tan should be accompanied by a day of national celebration. If the state of Victoria can celebrate a horse race, then it’s not too much to ask that the country as a whole take a day to wave a coloured flag for artistry and wonder. Parades would be necessary, full of papier-mâché creatures. Confetti of reds and oranges and yellows would rain from the skies as if Autumn had come all at once. There would be songs with no words, and random kindnesses between strangers. And at the end of the day, we’d sit around a giant fire and watch as stories unfolded in the shadow of the flames.

Shaun Tan can craft a story in a way that you didn’t know you needed until the manifest form of it was resting in your hand, a tangible thing that seemed to emerge straight out of the ether of endless myth rather than shaped by mortal hands. His stories are small stories (The Red Tree, The Lost Thing), and yet they speak directly to the core of human loneliness and connection. We are individuals standing in a world that is both beautiful and menacing, a shared space and yet so full of distance and emptiness. If you’ve ever felt lost in the world, chances are that Shaun Tan could help you see that being lost is something we all share, and actually there’s radiance in not knowing where you’re going. Continue reading

Quiet Please, We’re Sleeping

The Sleeper and the Spindle Book Cover The Sleeper and the Spindle
Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Bloomsbury Publishing, RRP $19.99
October 2014

Once upon a time there was a princess who was cursed by a witch, or was it a bad fairy? Whatever she was, she was pretty pissed not to be invited to the princess’s birthing ceremony. And so when the princess turned eighteen she pricked her finger on a spindle and fell asleep forever and the curse was fulfilled.

About one hundred years later, a queen is preparing for her wedding or, as she sees it, the end of her life. The queen dares to think that becoming a royal breeding machine and most likely dying in childbirth isn’t really something she wants in her life right now. Quelle surprise. Luckily the queen finds out about a sleeping plague that seems to be spreading through the queendom. How to stop it? Find the sleeping princess at the centre of it and wake her up of course. So this sweet arse queen tells her fiancé – some prince she deigned to marry – to chill out until she returns and goes off to wake the princess and save her people.

But is everything as it seems in the mysterious castle full of sleeping beings? Well, it’s Neil Gaiman, so probably not. Continue reading

Tricksy Pi-Rats And Slickest Poop Competitions

Russell Brand’s Trickster Tales – THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN

Russell Brand, illustrated by imageChris Riddell

Published 9th November 2014, Canongate (ISBN: 9781782114567)

Coming off the 2015 UK general election last week, it is no difficult task to read The Pied Piper of Hamelin–the first of Russell Brand’s Trickster Tales–and connect all sorts of dot points. From the nasty Fat Bob who bares a passing resemblance to a chubby David Cameron (or possibly a thin Eric Pickles) to the suspiciously Big Ben-like town clock. Though perhaps I am reading my own interpretations into Chris Riddell’s brilliant illustrations. You’ll recognise them, if not from The Edge Chronicles with Paul Stewart, then from Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book and The Sleeper And The Spindle (review coming soon). Continue reading

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