"Eric" - Shaun Tan

posted Feb 28, 2016, 1:18 PM by Amie Ridley   [ updated Feb 28, 2016, 1:34 PM ]
Yes, I am on a bit of an artists who write picture books binge at the moment.  One of the wonderful thing about artists writing picture books is that children get exposed to a wonderfully wide array of artistic styles and methods.  In fact, we have a book that does a series of art lessons based upon the various artistic styles of picture book illustrators ("Storybook Art" - MaryAnn F. Kohl and Jean Potter).  

Shaun Tan's books are beautifully illustrated.  They are an interesting mix of childhood wonder and a somewhat 'grown up' aesthetic.  And the stories themselves are much the same way.  

It was actually pre-children that I discovered Shaun Tan as a picture book creator, being read "The Red Tree" as part of a counselling class.  It was interesting to note the adults reactions to the books - they can be challenging, and some are quite shocked that these are books that you would read to children.  After all, they do deal with some sad and confusing emotions...

So I was interested to note my own children's reactions to these books.  We own "The Red Tree", and got "Rules of Summer" and "Eric" out of the library.  There are also many other fascinating looking books to request which we will continue to do.  I have read all of them with Miss 6 and she responded to them in a really positive way.  I think we forget that the world is a confusing place for kids sometimes, so to read a book that acknowledges that is really important.  

Of course the other vital factor in this kind of a picture book is that it ends in hope!  Without hope, it just doesn't work.  Kids need hope as much as adults do.  

Miss 6 responded really positively to "Rules of Summer", and it is a single sentence per page so she could sit and read it to herself as well.  Even Miss 2 would sit and 'read' this book to herself!  I however, fell in love with the little "Eric".  I think because for me it was a timely reminder in story form, that sometimes we have expectations, plans, and strategies that we have devised for teaching our children, but they tend to go off in their own direction.  And that doesn't mean they are not learning, they just do it differently.  And that is often where the wonder is.  

Of course you might not feel the same way as I did.  These books are kind of like poetry really - they can mean slightly different things to different people.  So as I am reading to my girls they are likely processing different aspects of their experience than I am.  Its a tricky thing to do in a picture book.  But my favourite kinds of stories, poems, or songs are the ones that have to be interpreted through the heart and don't give you the message up front.  It speaks to a deeper part of you, and one that is important to everyday life.