i have never said this before, and it goes against all my readers’ advisory training, but anyone who gives this book fewer than 5 stars is just flat-out wrong.
it is an absolutely stunning book.
apparently, not only can shaun tan draw and paint real good, but he is equally skilled at three-dimensional art and here he has created 75 sculptures ranging in size from 2 1/4 – 16 inches, illustrating various grimm’s tales, reminding us how very dark they were in their original, undisneyfied, form, and also how very few of them we actually know.
i mean, seriously – HE JUST SAT DOWN ONE DAY AND MADE THIS:
in addition, tan also photographed and digitally edited all the pieces appearing in the book himself, which is just showing off at that point.
the sculptures are perfect – haunting, evocative, textured, suggestive, occasionally unfinished or raggedy-looking, but they all embody a tone or mood so perfectly compatible with the dark weirdness of the tales.
the detail in some of these is remarkable
excerpts taken from this specific edition of the tales: The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm accompany each sculpture on the recto, and the book supplies a summary of each tale in its backmatter, so you can see what you’ve been missing. i know i am not the only person who, after reading this, is determined to familiarize myself with some of the more obscure grimm tales. if anyone has suggestions for the best collection, i’m all ears. otherwise, i’m just gonna buy this pretty one:
from neil gaiman’s introduction:
There is a tactile quality to the Shaun Tan sculptures. They feel primal, as if they were made in a long-ago age of the world, when the stories were first being shaped, and that perhaps the sculptures came first.
Shaun Tan makes me want to hold these tales close, to rub them with my fingers, to feel the cracks and the creases and the edges of them. He makes me want to pick them up, inspect them from unusual angles, feel the heft and the weight of them. He makes me wonder what damage I could do with them, how badly I could hurt someone if I hit them with a story.
These pictures make me want to put the stories in my mouth, knowing that I will eventually have to spit them out again, reluctantly, in words.
all of these things are true for me, too, and additionally, i want to find a picture that shows all of the sculptures at once, on a bunch of shelves or something, just to appreciate the scope of his accomplishment. but internet has not provided this visual for me. yet. the closest i could find is this:
which is more frustrating than anything..
all these review-pictures were taken by me from the book with my little camera, and are much more impressive and detailed in the actual book, with its tricky-to-photograph glossy paper. (or in any professional-type photos that can easily be found online. use your googler.)
here’s one, for those of you who don’t google well:
there’s also a cool step-by-step description of process here.
just one-hundred percent impressive in every way. this book is a treasure.
shaun tan, you are great at all things.
and if you are ever moving home and cannot fit all these sculptures in your cardboard boxes, i will take them off your hands.