Skip to main content

Shaun Tan Fan(girl)


This book is extraordinary.

I have written on Shaun Tan before, but in case you missed it, he has an uncanny ability to inject a subtle sense of unease and disquiet into his works - both written and visual.  There is something that is simplistic and mesmerising about his art.  I find myself staring at the tiniest detail with a furrowed brow, all the while wondering how the simple curve of a line, or detail of shadow, can make me feel like I should look over my shoulder; like there is something waiting for me just beyond that dark corner.

When I discovered that Shaun Tan had published a book of Grimm's Fairytales, and had created artworks to depict each narrative - I dived on it like a seagull on a chip.  And I haven't been disappointed.  The book does not seek to retell each tale in its entirety - each double page spread presents a small but flavoursome morsel of the tale, which is then enriched by Tan's sculptural interpretation of the narrative on the opposite page.  The sculptures are made of primitive materials, clay and stone and other selections I can't identify; and they are arranged on carefully chosen backdrops, placed amongst subtle set dressings, and (the photographer in me is speaking here) presented with fantastic use of light and shadow.

But it's hard to know which is more unsettling - the sculptures or the narratives.  Each excerpt is generally a few lines long, but honestly - that's enough.  Take the following as one example:

The Boy Who Left Home To Find Out About Fear

The boy went to the gallows, sat down beneath it, and waited until evening came.  Since he was cold, he made a fire.  When the wind knocked the hanged men against each other and they swung back and forth, he thought, 'They must be freezing up there, I'd better bring them all down to sit by the fire'.  And so he did, one by one, all seven of them.  They sat there beside him without saying a word, without moving, and soon enough their trousers caught on fire.  'Be careful,' he said, 'otherwise I'll hang you all back up there'.
- except from "The Singing Bones" (Shaun Tan, 2015)

Opposite this cheery tale is a moodily lit scene of 7 clay figures hanging from a gallows, and a solitary boy sitting beneath them reading a book.

I am not sure what I expected to get from reading this.  I knew it would make me feel something, Shaun Tan's work always does.  It made me feel like I should read more Grimm's Fairytales, that there is so much more to learn.  But what it also gave me was inspiration.  As a part-time songwriter, there is a modern re-telling of all these unsettling little vignettes, I have so much material to work with I don't know where to start.  I just know I will be delving back into this book for many years to come.


Popular posts from this blog

Using librarian skills to uncover a network of dodgy shopping sites!

In all my posts over the years I'm not sure if I ever mentioned I am an avid steampunker.  Like many of my quirky fellow librarians, I love a good dress up and recently found myself searching for a great pair of boots to go with the Steampunk Aviator Superhero costume I'm assembling (trust me, it will work!).

One evening whilst idly thumbing through Pinterest I found a picture of these undeniably AWESOME combat-boot style boots.  I followed the link to the website ( and although it didn't look dodgy and offered PayPal, I am a cautious online shopper and always check the customer reviews first.  They were 1000% abysmal.  Like the kind of reviews that say SCAM, THEFT and CAN I LEAVE 0 STARS.  So despite loving the shoes, I was definitely not parting with my money on this occasion.

Fast forward a couple of months and I see an ad for Victorian-style cosplay boots in my Insta feed.  Did I mention that I am an avid steampunker?  Because seriously, these shoes…

It only takes a second (ment)

What the hell is a secondment?
Some people I have chatted to have no idea what I'm talking about (and I also discovered that some spell-check utilities don't even recognise the word) so I thought I would clear the confusion by ripping a definition straight from Merriam-Webster:
Definition of secondmentplural-s

: the detachment of a person (such as a military officer) from his or her regular organization for temporary assignment elsewhere.

So if you just substitute "library services officer" for "military officer" you have an explanation of my situation!

Being a qualified Librarian can take you in so many different directions. One of the reasons I chose the tag "Ambidextrous Librarian" was because I honestly had no idea which direction my career would go. I have worked in school libraries and the kids and teachers are absolutely fantastic, but the pay, conditions and options for career development aren't all that varied. I tri…

A Somewhat Risky Business

Working in a public library means I am surrounded all day by books (duh).  Books are such pretty things - there is a reason why publishers spend big bucks on cover design, and that's because we pretty much ignore the old "don't judge a book by its cover" and happily judegy-judge away.  We can't help it, bright and shiny things attract us!

So as I was standing at the circ desk the other day having a bit of a rest between patrons, I found my eyes drawn yet again to a book that was on display.  I had been gazing at it on and off all day, and I couldn't really make out the title but it was the dress that caught me, and the shiny peach converse trainers, and the pose, and the luxurious hair.  I decided that the universe was telling me I had to borrow it, even if I had absolutely no idea what it was about.  I took it home without even reading the blurb.

The book was titled "This is just my face; try not to stare" by Gabourey Sidibe, the actress who starr…