Book Review: Or is It? (THE SINGING BONES by Shaun Tan)

singing-bonesIntrigued by recent advertisements, I wandered over to the library to check out a copy of The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan. All I knew was that it had something to do with fairy-tales and boasted a foreword by Neil Gaiman.

I’m also highly embarrassed to admit I haven’t read (if that’s the correct word in relation to the work of someone who writes graphic novels and wordless picture books) any of Tan’s work before.

The Singing Bones made me question my definition of a “book” and what we mean by “reading” a book. It’s really a collection of beautiful plates of sculptures Tan created to illustrate characters/scenes from classic Grimm Brothers fairy-tales along with snippets from the tales themselves.

Thus, it’s not so much a “reading” experience, but more like a total immersion into Tan’s mind, an insight into the images the tales conjure up for him.

This probably isn’t surprising for an author/illustrator/artist who spans so many different aspects of the creative enterprise and whose output has been eclectic (an understatement).

Because The Singing Bones isn’t really a book, I guess this isn’t really a “book review,” but I can say delving into the pages of this volume was a breathtaking experience. Some of those images will be with me for a long time. The book itself would be a marvelous holiday gift because it feels more like a collector’s item than a simple children’s book. In fact, it doesn’t feel like a children’s book at all – although it’s marketed through children’s book channels, and children would be sure to love it too. It’s really, I think, an artifact that is ageless and timeless in its appeal and the reader comes away with such a fresh new perspective on what we mean by storytelling that I highly recommend diving into if you can get your hands on a copy!