It has no sequential narrative, which is something a picture book is ideal for – you can open it at any page, go backwards or forwards, and spend as much time as you wish with each image.
I'd also been increasingly aware that illustration is a powerful way of expressing of feeling as well as ideas, partly because it is outside of verbal language, as many emotions can be hard to articulate in words.
won the Patricia Wrightson prize in the NSW Premier’s Book Awards, and was awarded the 'le Prix Octogones 2003’ prize by the Centre International d'Etudes en Litterature de Jeunesse, following it’s translation into French.
It is also published as Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish and Canadian/US editions.
This seems appropriate, as everyone’s experience of ‘suffering’ or ‘hope’ is unique and personal.
The picture book ‘the red tree’ written and illustrated by Shaun tan, conveys his perspective of the world with the effective use of literary and visual techniques such as symbolism, foreshadowing and the extended visual metaphor of the girl in the bottle on the ‘nobody understands’ page.The extended visual metaphor of the girl sitting in the bottle conveys the idea of her feelings trapped inside.The protagonist is shown sitting in the bottle which connects to the idea of a ‘message in a bottle’.At the beginning she awakes to find blackened leaves falling from her bedroom ceiling, threatening to quietly overwhelm her.She wanders down a street, overshadowed by a huge fish that floats above her.Moving beyond cliché, I sought painted images that might further explore the expressive possibilities of this kind of shared imagination, which could be at once strange and familiar.A nameless young girl appears in every picture, a stand-in for ourselves; she passes helplessly through many dark moments, yet ultimately finds something hopeful at the end of her journey.It is common that ‘messages in a bottle’ are lost and never found.Responders assume that she feels her thoughts and ideas are trapped inside and will not ever be discovered.I'm more attracted to those things that aren't quite right, like the social and environmental injustice in The Rabbits, or the social apathy of The Lost Thing, or even ideas about self-destruction in The Viewer.I find such things artistically engaging, perhaps because they are unresolved, like a puzzle.