The Red Tree
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The Red Tree

4.59 of 5 stars 4.59  ·  rating details  ·  2,095 ratings  ·  256 reviews
When a child awakens with dark leaves drifting into her bedroom, she feels that 'sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to, and things go from bad to worse.'

Feelings too complex for words are rendered into an imaginary landscape where the child wanders, oblivious to the glimmer of promise in the shape of a tiny red leaf.

Everything seems hopeless until the c...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published April 15th 2003 by Simply Read Books (first published 2000)
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An absolutely stunning picture book which conveys, in visual language easily accessible to a five year old, what it's like to suffer from a bipolar affective disorder. Move over Sylvia Plath, Tan has done it better.
Lisa Vegan
Jun 03, 2009 Lisa Vegan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Abigail A.
This picture book is for readers of all ages and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The art is gorgeous and truly interesting, the story of despair and hope is well done. I wish there had been picture books like this years ago; it doesn’t at all underestimate children. This could also make a wonderful gift book for older children, young adults, and adults going through a difficult emotional time, especially those suffering with depression or facing a challenge that seems overwhelming. It di...more
I completely disagree that this book is about manic depression, which is Manny's take. It is simply about feeling bad and realising that this won't last forever and that things will get better. It is about the irrationality of this process.

The author's take is that you can read it however you like. But having said that, he says:

A nameless young girl appears in every picture, a stand-in for ourselves; she passes helplessly through many dark moments, yet ultimately finds something hopeful at the e
my dear friend carrie gave me this book, little knowing it would speak directly to my heart during a time when my ears didn't seem to be working. powerful stuff in the guise of a children's book.
Nojood Alsudairi
Jan 24, 2012 Nojood Alsudairi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nojood by: One of Thuraya's gifts
This is the best book I read lately. It is about the feeling of despair! Very easy, yet very complicted! I loved the page that goes, "Sometimes you wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait but nothing ever happens" and the eight pictures zoom out the picture of the main character writing on the the floor counting days. You find out on the fifth picture that the girl is sitting on the back of a snail that goes in circles! In the end, a red tree grows into the girl's room.
Janne Varvára
In looking into ordering Shaun Tan's The Arrival, I checked my stock at work, and found a book of his already in my shelves: The Red Tree (in Norwegian, directly translated: Det røde treet). I opened it, and stunned read this short picture book cover to cover.
This work is absolutely gorgeous. The artwork is impeccable, drenched in dreams and truly inspiring imaginary images, ranging from the dark and dismal to the brightest reds and yellows.
This charming, honest book starts with the words (and t...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
This is an absolutely beautiful book, art and words and poetry and emotion all used to express what can't be expressed. It's a book for all ages, for everyone. It captures so powerfully our worst moments, moments of self-doubt and loneliness and unhappiness, when things seem too big and too overwhelming, when we feel helpless, misunderstood and unheard. The artwork is beautiful, unique and inspiring.

This is a book of few words, and one you find yourself "reading" again and again. The illustratio...more
Anouschka Fernander
In this picture book, Tan uses text and his own illustrations to address difficult and sad feelings that everyone can relate to in their lives. A little girl is shown waking up and going about her day while trying to understand her feelings. The book ends as the girl returns to her bedroom to find that a red tree has grown which represents that there is always hope no matter how bad things are.

This was a very simple but deep children's book. It can give hope to children who may not fit in and re...more
I think I'm mostly speechless.

There's one spread that, if I ever found a print of it, I'd snap it up. It's the page where the girl is trying to draw a picture of herself on a wall.

I need to go back to this one again (and again and again - I may need to buy my own copy). I'm still puzzling over the multiple meanings of the red tree itself. But it is ... beyond words.

(Warning, from what I've seen of Tan's The Arrival, I'll be even more gobsmacked by that one.)

ETA: Further thoughts on the red tree...more
Clare bought this to read to her children (she's a teacher), but they're 5/6 years old and she said the subject matter is probably too grim for them. It's about dealing with depression, if that's not too strong a term for the isolation and hurt a child can feel, and features the darkness seen in Tan's graphic novel 'The Arrival' (about immigration to a strnage land). Somehow he captures exactly what it feels like to be alone and sad, but with the glimmer of hope that can happen too..
and in - wha...more
Kelly  Maybedog
This story is controversial because it’s about sadness. The art is very beautiful like all of Tan’s work, but the text goes beyond what would be considered an ordinary child’s unhappiness and straight on to depression, something the author suffers from. Yet the summation is too simple for a child suffering from a major depressive episode. I think it is more a beautiful book for adults whether they’ve experienced the ravages of mental illness or not.
It's a children's book, but it's probably one of the deeper children's books you're likely to come across. The meaning is subtle and easy to miss, but significant. The only clue I can give is this: read it twice, and look for what was always there.
Sam Quixote
Shaun Tan's "The Red Tree" is a sparely scripted book with incredible paintings illustrating it's simple story. It's the story of depression and how a person copes with it. From waking up and struggling to get out of bed, to finding the energy to walk to work as well as constantly battling the negative thoughts in your head.

One of the most haunting images in the book is of an ordinary street scene rendered nightmarish by a giant fish with a gaping mouth and bleeding eyes hovering above the main...more
Emilie Rosson
There aren't really any words to describe how I feel about Shaun Tan's wonderful picture book The Red Tree, and I'm a little reluctant to try because I can't find the right words to convey how much I love it, but the truth is that it's possibly my favourite book and I feel like I should say something about it.

So, um, here goes.

The Red Tree is one of artist Shaun Tan's signature picture books that easily leaps the gap between child and adult readers. Filled with his extraordinary, detailed, uniqu...more
Mark Glover
This is my favourite book of all time, a bold call I know. But its the one I have given away infinite copies of and one I would reccomend every person reads. Shaun Tan is an Australian Illustrator of note and the works of art in the book are beyond stunning. What makes this book great though is the way in which it so decisively analyses depression, dissapointment and despair. Having spent a fair chunk of my life looking down the barrel of these issues I can honestly say it had the greatest impac...more
Muireann Mc Gowan
'Profound' is the only word which can accurately describe this Shaun Tan masterpiece. This stunning book truly gives picture books a new meaning, with its minimal words and vividly beautiful illustration, which promises to have a huge impact on anyone who reads it. Personally, I feel that although this is a picture book it would be best suited to older readers due to the intense feelings dealt with in this unique book.
The illustrations really capture the sense of isolation and lack of hope that...more
This book is amazing.

I very rarely give books five stars - but I'd give this one six if it were possible, and it's not even a "book" in the traditional sense - it's technically a children's picture book - but that description hardly does it justice.

The artwork is the main event here - there are very few words - maybe a scant paragraph's worth for the entire book - although the words that do appear are poignant and powerful. The story follows the dark emotions of a little redheaded girl :) as s...more
The most recent issue of my undergraduate alumni magazine featured an article on Shaun Tan, a West Australian artist. I loved the whimsical illustrations the article featured, and decided to see if my library had any of his books - good news: they do. Shaun describes his books as follows:

They are best described as ‘picture books for older readers’ rather than young children, as they deal with relatively complex visual styles and themes, including colonial imperialism, social apathy, the nature...more
This book is an accurate representation through art and verse of how it feels to be depressed. That's what makes it so amazing for those experiencing depression, or who have experienced it. However, my review falls just short of five stars because there's also something sort of depressing about it. That sounds obvious, but there are books I've read that have expressed beautifully how it is to be grief-stricken, depressed, and numb, without also making the reader feel the same way. Unfortunately,...more
I think this is one of the most amazing picture books, in terms of its visual beauty and its inspiring content. At one level it is extremely simple yet also very powerful and profound, I think appealing to both mature adults and young children alike. A range of experiences can be embraced within the story, which despite its sadness ends with hope for the future. We all have days like the one where the child wakes up with "nothing to look forward to" and sometimes words will not suffice to meet t...more
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Ringo The Cat
Absolutely fantastic picture book.
Okay, this is definately a picture book, but it has some serious content. The girl in it is sad, lonely, and depressed. But the illustrations are just magnificent and you could spend hours pouring over them to get all the meaning and symbolism out of them. I think high schoolers would love this book and all its depth, and I think the emotion and tone of thebook would resonate more with high schoolers than children. And Im not sure I would even give it to children. It is a little odd, but good.
Oct 19, 2007 Becky rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 4th grade and up
Gorgeous book. If you've ever thought picture books couldn't be Art with a Capital A, or appealing to older readers, take a look at The Red Tree. It's got some of the best visual representations of depression and uncertainty that I've ever seen. Shaun Tan's illustrations are otherworldly, and the words are just enough, ending with a note of hope that makes you realize the hope has been there all along. This book would make a great gift for someone who's going through a hard time.
Briar Rose
Apr 20, 2012 Briar Rose rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shaun Tan is a genius in the field of picture books. The Red Tree is a moving depiction of depression, despair and hope that bears more resemblance to the best kind of poetry than it does to a work of prose. Tan's books transcend age - they are not really 'for children' or 'for adults', but speak to everyone, and The Red Tree is no exception. It really is beautiful, and I know I'll be poring over it many more times before I reluctantly return it to the library.
This book was first brought to my attention by an australian primary teacher who bought this book in australia and brought it to the uk with her because it was special to her. shaun tan has an amazing imagination that captures children's attention in a wonderful way, he also includes a secret 'find the leaf" game within its illustrations. i highly recommend this book to anyone wishing to find an immersive and special experience with an artist and his imagination!
To call this book stunningly beautiful is to understate the quality of the imaginative, richly detailed illustrations with perfectly chosen text to accompany it. A very useful book to explain to the young how sometimes you can feel alone, misunderstood and ignored, but that circumstances will change and get better, so that holding on to hope, even when things seem bleakest, will pay off in the end. A wise and wonderful book.
i wish i could zoom back to the time when laurel stayed with me in austin for a month. one of the best memories was spending hours in the book store with my favorite book lover. and she hung out with me in the kids' section! we read this book together and i was taken aback. later i found this book neatly inscribed by my best friend on my book shelf. i love to read it regularly.
Michael Daaboul
Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree had an unfathomed impact on my understanding. It blew my mind. The reader can interpret the gorgeous illustrations and the short narrative in a number of ways. As a children’s picture book, I feel as if this will speak more to adults than to children. There’s an abundance of emotions from hopelessness, solidarity and a feeling of everything in life becoming overwhelming. As much as The Red Tree is about a little girl experiencing a darker time in her childhood, most of t...more
May 21, 2009 Melody rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Humans
I have never read a better book about depression. Tan's illustrations are otherworldly and inform and illuminate the simple text with layers of meaning and despair and hope. This is a truly extraordinary book which I recommend whole-heartedly to anyone whose life has been touched by sadness. Brilliant, intense, and outrageously beautiful.
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Shaun Tan (born 1974) is the illustrator and author of award-winning children's books. After freelancing for some years from a studio at Mt. Lawley, Tan relocated to Melbourne, Victoria in 2007. Tan was the Illustrator in Residence at the University of Melbourne's Department of Language Literacy and Arts Education for two weeks through an annual Fellowship offered by the May Gibbs Children’s Liter...more
More about Shaun Tan...
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“Sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to...” 10 likes
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