show to tell

image from Shaun Tans The Lost Thing
image from Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing

One of the things that I love about my job is the flexible work day.A   Today I nipped out in the afternoon to hear two of my favourite authors Shaun Tan and Mariko Tamaki on a panel about narrating through illustration at the Vancouver International Readers and Writers festival.A   I was so excited about hearing Shaun Tan that I didn’t realize that there was a third author/illustrator on the panel, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, who has developed Haida manga. Even though the 3 authors had great presentations, I felt that the $18 ticket was a bit steep.

I don’t read much fiction, but I love picture books.A   Shaun Tan writes picture books, but they aren’t just for children.A   Some of them might be a bit too dark or heavy for most young kids.A   The Rabbits is a book about colonization.A   The Red Tree is a book about depression.A   The Lost Thing is a book about…a lost thing.A   I often use The Lost Thing as an example when I do catalogue training and I love that a cataloger at my public library has assigned it a subject heading of “lost and found possessions — Juvenille fiction“.

The Arrival is about immigration, navigating through very foreign environment, and missing family.A   All of this is communicated without words.A   There’s a common thread about otherness, belonging and empathy in most of his books.

Shaun said so many interesting and brilliant things about the detail in his work.A   Even though I’ve read The Lost Thing many times, I had never noticed that in the image above, the guy is feeding the thing Christmas decorations.A   I also didn’t know that his work references famous styles of paintings, or famous Australian paintings.A   I don’t have those references, but found it extremely interesting to hear him point some of them out.

Mariko Tamaki was awesome.A   I haven’t read her graphic novel/comics yet, but really enjoyed her teen fiction.A   The voice in her work sounds authentic and I really like her characters.A   She showed some images from her notebook of ideas, what the story looked like, and finally what the page in her first graphic novel Skim, which has been nominated in the children’s catagory for the 2008 Governor General Literary awards.

Mariko explained the difference between the creative process in doing Skim with Groundwood Books and her first comic with DC Comics Emiko Superstar.A   For Skim she wrote the story, then sent it to her cousin who drew the graphic novel.A   She described Emiko Superstar as a different collaboration–she picked out the clothing that she wanted her characters to wear, and took photos in her neighbourhood of what some of the buildings would look like, then the artist created these characters and buildings.

I don’t think I’ll make it to any of the other events, but I’m glad I got to hear these two speak.