Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Red Tree

Ever since i started children's literature (and a couple of years before that actually) I've been really inspired by picture books for older readers. These are the kinds of books that kids can read and they sort of plant the themes of some more serious issues like depression and war. But the art, writing and even subtlety of themes are more appreciated by adults and teenagers. The first books of this genre that I loved were The Peril of Magnificent Love, A Gorgeous Sense of Hope and The Origin of Lament by Emma Magenta. These book explore the themes of love, loss and hope through the story of a young girl drawn in childlike sketches.

Then I fell in love with The Little Prince, the story of a young boy who lives on another planet with his Rose and decides to explore the solar system. This is possibly my favourite children's picture book ever. It was written by Antoine De Saint Exupery in the year 1943 and is translated from French. I think this is possibly one of the most beautiful love stories I've ever read, even though it's between a little boy and a flower.

"Of course I love you," the flower said to him. "It is my fault that you have not known it all the while. That is of no importance. But you, you have been just as foolish as I. Try to be happy... let the glass globe be. I don't want it any more."

'But what about the wind?'

"My cold is not as bad as all that...the cool night air will do me good. I am a flower."

'But what about insects?'

"I'll simply have to put up with two or three caterpillars if i want to meet some butterflies. I have heard that they are very beautiful. Otherwise, who will visit me? You will be far away. As for wild animals I am not afraid of them. I have my claws."

And she innocently showed her four thorns. Then she added:

"Don't hang about like that, it's irritating. You've decided to go. Now go!"

For she did not want him to see her tears. She was such a haughty flower...

And this year through my children's literature course i've discovered the works of Western Australian artist Shaun Tan. His picture book about depression and hope, The Red Tree, is absolutely magnificent.

'Sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to.'

'nobody understands'
'wonderful things are passing you by'

'and the day seems to end the way it began.
But suddenly there it is right in front of you
bright and vivid quietly waiting'
'just as you imagined it would be.'

The art in this book is painstakingly detailed and every time I read it I pick up something little that I previously missed, like the lock to the window on the 'wonderful things are passing you by' page has 'regret' engraved on it.
There's also a small red leaf visible on every page of the book that symbolises the protagonist's hope.

I guess I didn't think I learned anything this semester in children's literature but i learned to appreciate how much work goes into just one page. I think I've always wanted to be an author, ever since I made my first pop-up zoo book from magazine clippings when i was bored one day, or when my mum bought me a typewriter for my eigth birthday. But I never really considered children's literature to be a true art form...until now.

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