A Review of The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan

by Hal Patnott

Over the last two weeks, we have looked at titles that stand out for their representation of ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness). This week’s selection, The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan, demonstrates three of these values—collaboration, excellence, and innovation.

the-singing-bones

The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2016)

A man promises his daughter to the devil. Two children stumble across the house of a witch in the woods. Jealous and spiteful, a queen casts a spell on her step-sons and turns them into swans. Unable to resist his nature, a cat betrays and devours his mouse friend.  Shaun Tan presents a new contribution to the vast treasury of retellings and works inspired by Grimms’ fairy tales. Seventy-five photographed sculptures accompany excerpts from each of the selected tales. Crafted from papier-mâché, air drying clay, and paint, the texture and the shadows in every piece bring to life a haunting atmosphere. In the forward, Neil Gaiman writes, “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.” Along with the plates for seventy-five tales, The Singing Bones includes a forward, a historical introduction by Jack Zipes, an afterward with more details about the art from Shaun Tan, an annotated index, and suggested further reading. This collection is worth exploring for long-time lovers of fairy tales and newcomers alike.

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