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eBook The Lost Thing ePub

eBook The Lost Thing ePub

by Shaun Tan

  • ISBN: 1894965108
  • Category: Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Subcategory: For Children
  • Author: Shaun Tan
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Simply Read Books; First Edition edition (November 30, 2004)
  • Pages: 32
  • ePub book: 1462 kb
  • Fb2 book: 1717 kb
  • Other: txt doc lrf rtf
  • Rating: 4.9
  • Votes: 549


The Lost Thing is a picture book written and illustrated by Shaun Tan that was also adapted into an Academy Award-winning animated short film.

The Lost Thing is a picture book written and illustrated by Shaun Tan that was also adapted into an Academy Award-winning animated short film. Set in the near future, in dystopian Melbourne, Australia, The Lost Thing is a story about Shaun who enjoys collecting bottle tops for his bottle top collection.

The Lost Thing is a picture book that follows the interruption in the daily life of an ordinary boy when he discovers a ‘monster’ on the beach and tries to find out where he belongs in a self-absorbed and drab world.

The Lost Thing is an illustrated book for young readers by award-winning Australian illustrator and author, Shaun Tan. The story is being told, according to the post card from Suburbia on the back cover, to the reader by Shaun. In it, a younger Shaun, idling around by the beach, spots The Lost Thing. At least, it seems lost to him. It’s quite big, but when he interacts with it, it seems friendly, and he tries to find out to whom it might belong.

The Lost Thing is one of those creative works that’s marketed towards kids, yet might have even more value for adults

The Lost Thing is one of those creative works that’s marketed towards kids, yet might have even more value for adults. Sort of a picture book equivalent of Watership Down.

Shaun Tan stresses that picture books are not always books for young children. Prepare a short presentation in any form you wish to explain why The Lost Thing is not a children’s book. 5. The world of the story is a place where no one notices very much at all and this has made it lifeless and bleak. Why does ‘not noticing’ have this negative effect on people’s lives and the world around them?

Shaun Tan. A boy discovers a bizarre-looking creature while out collecting bottle-tops at a beach.

Shaun Tan. Having guessed that it is lost, he tries to find out who owns it or where it belongs, but the problem is met with indifference by everyone else, who barely notices its presence. Each is unhelpful in their own way; strangers, friends, parents are all unwilling to entertain this uninvited interruption to day-to-day life. In spite of his better judgement, the boy feels sorry for this hapless creature, and attempts to find out where it belongs.

Last year, I raved about The Lost Thing, a lovely cross-platform gem by acclaimed Australian author and illustrator Shaun Ta.

Last year, I raved about The Lost Thing, a lovely cross-platform gem by acclaimed Australian author and illustrator Shaun Tan. (Who recently gave an interview only in drawings. For a megadose of Tan’s genius, it doesn’t get better than Lost and Found - an anthology of three of his most beloved children’s stories: The Red Tree, The Lost Thing and The Rabbits. In 2019, the 13th year of Brain Pickings, I poured tremendous time, thought, and resources in keeping this labor of love going and keeping it free (and ad-free).

First, a word about Shaun Tan. He is an amazing storyteller. His picture books are not only filled with rich, whimsical pictures, but also with stories that stay with you long after you finish reading the last page. Sometimes poignant, sometimes joyful, they are always elegantly pure and simple, yet in that simplicity lies their power. I am not sure if this is an accurate description, but I think his stories are special, because they reach that part of you that still believes in the goodness of other people, of this world, and of yourself. The Lost Thing is one such story

While looking for bottle caps on the beach, a young boy stumbles upon a lost "thing," and tries to find out who it belongs to.


Cordanius Cordanius
I bought this "children's book" in 2005 and I am just now reviewing it. Yes, it has stuck with me that long.

The Lost Thing is one of those creative works that’s marketed towards kids, yet might have even more value for adults. Sort of a “picture book” equivalent of Watership Down. With its highly detailed steampunk aesthetic—both in its main images, and the pseudo blueprint schematic designs along the borders—it reminds one of Terry Gilliam, Orwell, German expressionism, and in a weird way, the films of Hayao Miyazaki. Like Miyazaki, Shaun Tan seems to have a tremendous ability to create a surreal world—one that runs on its own internal logic which in itself serves as a mirror to reflect the illogic of how we behave in our day-to-day lives. Frankly, it’s a masterpiece.

Some have expressed ambivalence as to the theme and purpose of the Lost Thing. To me, it could not be more obvious. In addition to just having plain gorgeous, dystopic artwork—the Lost Thing is clearly a despairing cry against conformity, apathy and worldliness. You see, the titular "Thing” is a very strange hybrid between robot and animal. It’s bright red and almost Lovecraftian in its size. It makes its first appearance on the beach, in clear view of everyone. People should be gawking at this behemoth. Just witnessing it should leave an indelible mark on their brains, a story they could tell their grandchildren. Yet, save for the main character—a boy who happens upon the Thing during a bottlecap-collecting excursion—no one even gives it a second glance.

From all the beachgoers to the main character’s parents to the downtrodden occupants riding the subway trams… It’s not so much that the Thing isn’t accepted or that it sticks out like a rusty thumb; it’s that no one cares. The characters have become so apathetic—their value systems so revolving around the latest news of the day, normalcy, and a media so pervasive that it has killed all sparks of curiosity in its audience—that when something rare and wonderful appears, these automatons don’t reject it so much as they are blind to it. (The boy's parents literally just go on watching TV even as this big red Thing occupies their living room.)

Being aware of this book’s theme makes the ending subtly dark. After having successfully delivered the Thing to a new “home” of sorts—a strange little world of misfits, hidden from the “regular strangeness” of the rest of the book—Tan implies that the main character is destined to become just like his soul-blind parents. As the years go by, he will become more and more assimilated to “normalcy.” He will adapt the value system of the world he inhabits. Mature adults know that life is all about working in a cubicle, collecting that paycheck, vegging out in front of the TV, and never, ever feeling wonder or curiosity about anything. Wonder and curiosity are fine for silly children. But at a certain point one needs to put aside such childishness and be a real man (or woman); do your job, don’t question, don’t stick out from the crowd, and pass those Cheetos.

The parting words from the main character say it all:

“I still think about that lost thing from time to time. Especially when I see something out of the corner of my eye that doesn’t quite fit… I see that sort of thing less and less these days though. Maybe there aren’t many lost things around anymore. Or maybe I’ve just stopped noticing them. Too busy doing other stuff, I guess.”

And throughout this monologue, Tan pulls the “camera” back to show the boy as just another passenger speck on a subway tram amidst a sea of subway trams. It’s like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil for grade-schoolers.

I have to emphasize how entrancing the artwork is. Another reviewer said that he found himself coming back to this book a couple times a week ever since he bought it. I’d wager that it’s because of the artwork. This is NOT one of those kids books in which the author and publisher cynically try to outdo one another in how far low than can set the bar, based on the idea that “Kids and their parents will buy any old crap. Just pump something cutesy out so we can market it.” (More on one such children’s book below.)

Rather, every page of The Lost Thing is suitable for framing. From the Kafkaesque government building depicted from an extreme top-down view, to the shot of our main character sitting amidst rows of identical industrial suburban houses, to the hidden alleyway offset by the massive gear in the foreground—you might be compelled, as I was, to investigate if framed prints are available to purchase. (They are. They’re expensive.)

On that note, can we hope for a scanned pdf release in the future (like they do with comic books)? True, it’s not the same as an actual copy of the book, but it would do in a pinch. At present, it looks like physical copies of The Lost Thing are only available "used and new from these sellers," and I'd hate to think of a world in which Shaun Tan's masterwork disappears entirely.


I’d like to do something a bit strange at the end of this review and contrast The Lost Thing to another, totally different children’s book that we happened to purchase right around the time we got The Lost Thing. (It's totally different, yet in its own blundering way, manages to evoke the same themes.) And that other book is called “EDWINA: The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct” by Mo Willems.

You see, in all the ways that The Lost Thing is wonderful, Edwina is awful.

Whereas Edwina seems to convey all the wrong lessons with its skin-deep insipid narrative, The Lost Thing is remarkable in its mission statement and the brains it uses to convey that statement. Whereas Edwina seems to be from the school of children’s books that say, “Hey, it doesn’t matter if the artwork is terrible because it’s just for little kids”—Tan takes the stance of a true artist and seems to have put his blood sweat and tears in every image, regardless of the fact that such details might likely be lost on the book’s target audience.

But most importantly, whereas Edwina seems to celebrate conformity and mediocrity, celebrate going along with the crowd, and makes fun of those that would question the status quo—Shaun Tan delivers a beautifully-rendered, passionate and subversive critique against such a grotesque worldview. Mo Willems' Edwina seems to believe that above all else—above being true to your convictions—people should just be content to fit in and “go with the flow.” Shaun Tan on the other hand recognizes that oftentimes single bodies of water can be stagnant, and that conformity inevitably leads to the death of human potential. Shaun Tan celebrates the individual, whereas Mo Willems mocks it.

In a strange way, because it is so mindless–Mo Willems' book makes for an unwitting companion piece to Shaun Tan's thoughtful masterwork. The contrasts are striking. By being so diametrically opposed to the values of curiosity, non-conformity, and sticking one’s neck out—Edwina's mere existence only drives home the themes of The Lost Thing even deeper. I've no doubt that Edwina and her friends--uninquisitive Stepford ciphers, all of them--would feel right at home on that beach where the Thing first makes its appearance. They'd fit right in with the automatons.
santa santa
Wonderful book from a talented artist. Enchanting for adults and children.
Yozshubei Yozshubei
This oddly compelling book is beautifully illustrated and takes the reader into another world. It is my favorite of Shaun Tan's books, something you'll return to again and again. Highly recommended.
Vonalij Vonalij
There is something haunting about this story and it's illustrations. I saw the animated film version of this story and wanted the book as a reminder.
thrust thrust
Shaun Tan, <strong>The Lost Thing</strong> (Simply Read Books, 2004)

Ironically, while I've been a huge fan of Shaun Tan's for a few years, now I didn't get round to reading his first book until after a sort film adapted from it won the Best Animated Short Oscar for 2010. I haven't sene it yet, but if a film adapted from this can win an Academy Award, I can't wait to see what someone with a strong vision can do with <em>The Arrival</em>. <em>The Lost Thing</em> is good, and it's full of the rich background detail and odd, surreal illustration that have made Tan such a sensation in the last could of years, but this was written and published while Tan was still a teenager, and it shows; he hadn't quite found his won voice yet, though I'm saying that through the lens of hindsight. Looked at back in the day, I'm sure it seemed like something startling and new, but now it looks like what it is: the first book from a guy with limitless potential who hadn't quite gotten there yet. It's still a wonderful thing, to be sure, but it's not up to the standards Tan subsequently set for himself in books like <em>The Haunted Playground</em>, <em>Tales from Outer Suburbia</em>, and of course <em>The Arrival. ****
invasion invasion
It is difficult to classify this superb book. It is classified as a children's book, but it will have appeal to all ages. To a certain extent it reminds me of the great works of art by Graeme Base and John Sceszka and Lane Smith, but again it is different. The imagies are almost surreal - certainly reminiscent of Dali on an odd day.

A simple tale, without a moral? Perhaps so, perhaps not - I like to think it is a comment on all we have lost, and found, and let go again.

The illustrations are magnificent, quirky and engaging, and you notice different things with each reading (or viewing?). Our hero is a simple soul, the lost thing also simple and yet remarkably complex. My favourite part is where our hero gives it something to eat once he has discovered what it likes, and the food he is offering it is christmas decorations!

It is an absolutely delightful book. Share it with your children, or your partner, or your best friend. Or keep it for yourself. It isn't a book that is easy to classify, but it is definitely a keeper.

I recommend it highly.
Weetont Weetont
The lost thing is about isolation and indifference. The hero of the story is a bottle-top collector that suddenly finds a very interesting thing and decides to help it find its place. It makes funny of our busy and boring day-to-day life, of how indifferent we are to what happens around us. I laugh aloud every time I read the book; Shaun's humor is so unique!

The story is told in a very special way, with lots of details in the graphics that must be observed carefully. The drawings are just wonderful; Shaun tan mixes the grey and yellow of the cities and adds a touch of color in the lost things. I believe that the book is a great adventure to children and adults alike, every reading brings new discoveries.

As the sub-title of the books reads: "A tale for those who have more important things to pay attention to".