Red Tree

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by adishot
Last updated 4 years ago

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Red Tree

Book Review

The Red Tree

Shaun Tan

The Red Tree was first published in 2001 and is written and illustrated by Shaun Tan. The book looks at feelings. It appears dark upon first inspection, yet I feel it has moments of beauty and is ultimately an uplifting read. It is a picture book I believe to be not suitable for younger children. Upper primary students, teachers, parents and carers will find this book thoroughly engaging through its use of visual grammar. We follow a young girl whom believes that sometimes days begin with very little to look forward too. The girl wanders aimlessly, amongst a surreal, dark and gloomy landscape. Though inside the darkness and gloom there features a small red leaf that I believe is a metaphor for hope in that there is always hope amongst the hopeless. There are a number of sophisticated themes featured inside the book such as: missed opportunities, Identity, bravery, the sometimes overwhelming nature of life.

In an unusual narrative approach, the story is told through the thoughts of the little girl in the second person, This helps to immerse the reader in the thoughts and feelings of the little girl and her struggles. It is a book where the Tan's illustrations take centre stage. The visual grammar he uses entices the reader to make their own meaning from the pictures. The pictures do not bleed to the edges of the page; instead Tan uses a framing technique that makes some of the images feel trapped. Once again, perhaps this is a metaphor for the loneliness and isolation that the young girl feels? The endpaper at the start of the book sets the tone for what is to come with the use of grey, a very negative, dour colour. The red leaf, which is a prominent feature throughout the book, is a dark grey in this page. The end paper at the rear of the book offers the reader a much more optimistic feeling of hope with a rich, vibrant, colourful close-up of The Red Tree. Throughout many of the pages the little girl is shot from long range and this really helps the reader to understand the loneliness that she feels.

Shaun Tan demands the reader’s attention to certain objects through his use of salience. The large floating fish is a high salience object that demands the reader’s attention. I believe that Tan uses the large fish as a metaphor for the dark and heavy feelings that follow the young girl around.

The interanimation The interanimation featured throughout the book is perfectly balanced. The bigger images feature larger texts and the negative words are highlighted by being even larger still. Many of the colours used are dark, negative and almost dirty looking. and the choice of language such as: "darkness", "bad", "troubles" and "terrible" create a mood that is foreboding and explores the overall feeling of the book. Tan uses evaluative language to project the negative appreciation the young girl has of the world around her when she describes the world as a "deaf machine" where she is surrounded by other other people, similarly despondent in what looks to be a large industrial factory filled with machines.

The Red Tree - Finding hope amongst the hopeless. by Adrian Shotbolt.

I thouroughly enjoyed this book. It's challenging because of the feelings it evokes. The hidden meanings make it sad but also uplifting. It asks questions and provides a visually stunning reading experience for adults and older children.


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