The main character, a young boy, narrates a matter of fact summer holiday story about finding a metaphorical Lost thing - a huge, red, teapot-like creature with crab claws that acts like a pet dog. “It all happened a few summers ago, one rather ordinary day by the beach. Not much was going on. I was, as usual, working tirelessly on my bottle-top collection and stopped to look up for no particular reason. That’s when I first saw the thing.” In the double spread above, you can see the Lost Thing down on the beach, and there are close ups in the four cameos on the right hand side. Can you see the traffic lights with four lights?
The story is of the journey the boy takes to find a home for the creature. The illustrations are full of detail and thought provoking, in particular when seen alongside the minimal, fairly dry text. Tan used his father’s old physics textbooks to make the backgrounds, and they bring a wonderfully sunburned brown, textured feel to the pages, as well as hundreds of reasons to keep looking and pouring over the illustrations. In many places there are little expressions which seem perfectly placed ... I'll leave you to find them!
The boy takes the creature to his friend's home to discover what it is. They are both stumped and sit on the roof drinking tea and trying to sort things out. It's a great spread, and you can see Suburbia behind them with all the houses with red roofs, all exactly the same.
Later, the creature eats Christmas decorations in the boy's back shed, while the boy thinks what to do. They take a trip to The Federal Department of Odds and Ends whose moto is "sweepus underum carpetae", and where the boy is required to fill in hundreds of forms. It is there that he is given a card with a wiggly arrow on it as a clue to where to take the creature. They wonder around Suburbia following signs with arrows, (and there are some amazing signs!) and eventually the boy does find a home for the Lost Thing, it “… seemed to be the right place, in a dark little gap off some anonymous little street. The sort of place you’d never know existed unless you were actually looking for it.”
|Collin's Street 5pm by John Brack 1955|
and finally ... Trevor Cairney, whose blog I follow, also got excited about the Oscar award for The Lost Thing, and updated a post he'd already written about Tan. Here's the link.