Tan, S. (2011). Lost & Found. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine.
This is a really interesting book in regards to the appropriate age level, Barnes and Noble lists it as being for ages 4-8 but i strongly disagree with this age range and would say that it is better suited in many ways for tween and teen readers. I believe the reason the suggested age is listed so low is because of the limited amount of text with the book being something between a picture book and a graphic novel. However the actual content is much deeper. The book consists of three stories and in the back of the book Shaun Tan lists his inspiration for each story. There is a common theme through the stories about growing up and finding your place in the world. The first story is The Red Tree which discusses what it feels like to deal with depression. The Lost Thing is about a boy who finds an odd thing on the beach and searches for someplace to return it to, he does find someplace where he believes the thing will be happy but the end of the story discusses how he has stopped noticing lost things as a way of describing what it is like to grow up. The final story is The Rabbits which uses rabbits as a way of describing the colonizing process, the story is specifically talking about colonial Australia but this easily parallels the colonial process in many countries. The deep and at times dark subject matter of these stories makes the book much better suited to older readers while the picture book/ graphic novel format makes it easier to understand creating a change for great discussion of the topics.
Personally I was really touched by The Red Tree which ends on a hopeful note and can be a great resource for any child dealing with mental illness in themselves or a loved one as well as a great resource for those who are not mentally ill but are going through a tough time. It is really important to remember that just because kids are young does not mean that will just bounce back from tough life events but may be dealing with depression or other mental illness as a result. It is also a good book for kids who have trouble with bullying as the feelings that will never end can be challenged by the experience of the girl in the book who feels alone and that things will never change until she sees the red tree. The author’s note in the back of the book describes how Tan was inspired by his own depression which is more in depth and mature than the rest of the text. The authors note not only for this story but also the others is why I would still recommend this book to older tweens and teens.
In addition to being a great resource on mental illness. This book could be added to book lists or displays on books originally published in other countries as the stories where first published in Australia. It would also be great in a display of illustrated books for older readers. With the format being somewhere between a picture book and a graphic novel it can seem babyish to some readers making them less likely to pick it up but including it in a display of books that prominently feature artwork and still have more mature subject and more sophisticated pictures can show the books true worth. This type of display can also be very appealing to reluctant readers who are looking for books with less text or English as a second language students that are older but also appreciate having the illustrations to help clarify what the text is describing. Overall this book can appeal to a wide audience having elements from many different areas including; realistic fiction, historical fiction, picture book, and graphic novel aspects to the three short stories.