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The Singing Bones

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  1,835 ratings  ·  391 reviews
"Well now, dear children, who brought you here? Just come inside and stay with me. Nobody's going to harm you..."

Wicked stepmothers, traitorous brothers, cunning foxes, lonely princesses: There is no mistaking the world of the Brothers Grimm and the beloved fairy tales that have captured generations of readers. Now internationally acclaimed artist Shaun Tan shows us the be
Hardcover, 185 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by Arthur A. Levine Books (first published October 1st 2015)
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  1,835 ratings  ·  391 reviews

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Emily May
An absolutely stunning book of art. It's a hard book to categorize and my shelving is somewhat misleading. It's neither graphic novel nor fairy tale retelling, exactly, though it does contain both graphics and fairy tales. Shaun Tan has crafted 75 beautiful sculptures to represent 75 Brothers Grimm fairy tales, with little snippets from each fairy tale on the adjacent page. Each sculpture is quite simple, but thoughtful and perfectly atmospheric. I must admit that I don't check out that many boo ...more
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aaaahhrrrtt
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i have never said this before, and it goes against all my readers' advisory training, but anyone who gives this book fewer than 5 stars is just flat-out wrong.

it is an absolutely stunning book.

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apparently, not only can shaun tan draw and paint real good, but he is equally skilled at three-dimensional art and here he has created 75 sculptures ranging in size from 2 1/4 - 16 inches, illustrating various grimm's tales, reminding us how very dark they were in their or
Cristina Monica
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, fairy-tales
I found Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL fascinating so, obviously, I couldn’t drive by this beauty without picking it up along the way.

Thank goodness I did. Woah, What a book.

So this isn’t a novel. Or a graphic novel. Or a collection of poems. Or a compilation of short stories. Or anything you may think, really.

On one page there is an excerpt from one of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and on the next one an image of a sculpture Shaun Tan made.

And let me tell you they are INCREDIBLE. Worthy of being pu
C.G. Drews
I thought this was going to be more of a storybook...but it's definitely focused on art. And you know what? That's awesome. Pictures are great. Petition to have more books full of pictures and photos because I aM A CHILD and need visuals.

It's set out like this: one page has a snippet of a fairy tale, and the next has a weirdly dark photo to go with it. The photos are kind of creepy?!? Which is 5000% awesome. (Although some of them were a bit dull, but most I liked!) Some of the artistic represen
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shaun Tan is a real artist, and this is a gorgeous book of art. A little hard to explain what it is exactly, definitely not a graphic novel, as it is described in many places. Rather it's an album of Tan's miniature clay and papier-mâché statues accompanied and inspired by 75 of Brothers Grimm fairy tales. I am not sure Tan can take any credit for the fragments of the tales he uses (did he interpret or rework them in any way? I have no idea), but his work is absolutely beautiful. Very often the ...more
I am a huge Shaun Tan fan, but this book was not my favorite. It did not speak to me as a reader. I like quirky and I like art-ish things and I like fairytale stories and I thought I would love this and I didn't.

This is 74 fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm. This is like a 'drop needle test' in collage when I was a music major. It was required to know a piece of music so well, that the test was the professor would put on a piece of music and drop the needle on the record player in a random spot
Carol -  Reading Writing and Riesling
My View:
What a beautiful collection!
Shaun Tan has captured the essence and emotions of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales with his deceivingly simple yet evocative sculptures. The works are eloquent and are beautifully paired with edited extracts from The Complete Fairy Tales translated, introduced and annotated by Jack Zipes (Vintage Books, 1987); these sculptures and extracts are truly memorable and have succeeded in replacing any childhood images I had of the tales.

So many emotions fill these pages; t
Ever since picking up The Little Red Tree in a Melbourne bookstore I have loved the illustrative style of Shaun Tan. His sepia toned book on immigration The Arrival I think is a masterpiece. So when this book appeared with Tan's distinctive take on illustrating the Grimm fairy tales there was no way I was leaving it in the bookshop.
So many great illustrators have been associated with the Grimm folk tales - Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Walter Crane and more recently Daniela Drescher and Andr
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What do you get when you put Shaun Tan's artistic bend and have him interpret Grimm's fairytales? A whole lot of fun! I was raised on the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perreault, so I absolutely enjoyed the darkness of the tales. Although I do have to say that the Rapunzel representation, looked like a phallus with golden hair. Other than it was a great read.
This book is STUNNING which is exactly what I would expect from Shaun Tan, author of The Arrival, one of my all-time favourite ever graphic novels. This is more of an art book than an actual story, but it's so whimsical and creepy in all the right ways and it ties very strongly to The Grimm Fairy Tales. What Tan has attempted within the pages of this book is to condense each of the Grimm tales down to its rawest and most primitive form. Using sculpture as a medium and various materials he has ma ...more
Elle (TheBookishActress)

If this image is intriguing to you, you need to read this.

The Singing Bones is a book of art inspired by fairy tales. Some are literal interpretations. Some are eerie, yet convey the vibe of the story. But all are interesting and beautiful.

I knew some of the stories, but a few were unknown to me. I especially loved the choices Shaun Tan made of quotes. I especially loved the the Juniper Tree (31), Bearskin (46), One Eye Two Eyes Three Eyes (56).

The art was always interesting, but of course I h
Emily Mead
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is absolutely STUNNING. The sculptures that Shaun Tan's created, alongside the stories they come from, are so strange and wonderful, and they match perfectly.

Full review to come!!


If you like a) illustrations, b) fairytales and c) sculptures, this is definitely the book for you.

Shaun Tan is a bloody legend, basically. I requested this one from Allen and Unwin, and the absolutely GORGEOUS book turned up in my mail. I almost screamed, people, it wa
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels

So, I took my time reading this book but I'm really glad that I did. I rationed myself on a couple of tales a day to ensure that I fully took in the beauty of each one, and I can honestly say that I have been richly rewarded. Not only is The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan a fully compelling and engaging read, but his accompanying artwork is mind-blowing!

Some of my favourite sculptures include Hansel and Gretel, The White Snake, The Fisherman and His Wife, Foundling, Mother Trudy, All Fu
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Powerful and Amazing!
Kayla Leitschuh
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Part fairy tale collection. Part art exhibit. Altogether a beautiful and haunting work.
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
This book is a collection of photographs of small sculptures inspired by tales from the Brothers Grimm. Shaun Tan shows that he is as wonderful an artist in this medium as he is an illustrator. I was enchanted by the art work, but frustrated because I realized I am not familiar with the vast majority of the Grimm tales -- each facing page includes an excerpt from the referenced tale, but not enough to give you the whole story, so I felt I lacked the key to appreciate the book fully.
A foreword by Neil Gaiman, a history of the Grimm brothers (who were librarians to boot!), a series of creations by Shaun Tan of The Arrival fame with an excerpt from the real Grimm's tales, and a closing chapter about the tales. Um, OBSESSED.

They are rich, dark, creepy, magical, puzzling, and more.

It immediately went into the hands of my Horror Fiction and Film teacher who is a Gaiman fan and clearly has a horse in this race. I can't wait to hear what he thinks tomorrow.

As for me, the images
Did you see how many tags I just clicked to try to categorize this strangely beautiful book?

Each photograph of each sculpture created by Shaun Tan is a visual poem, and paired with an incredible spare pared-down snippet of one trippy Grimm's tale the words and art combine to make something that feels both incomplete and yet also clearly fully unto itself.

I've had varying enjoyment of works of Neil Gaiman, but, man, can he write an introduction. I also loved Jack Zipes speedy but thorough and sup
It's not often that an artist can bring a new and completely fresh vibe to fairytales, but Shaun Tan has achieved it wonderfully. This is a collection of sculptures that reimagine and represent the Grimm's fairytales so well that you find it hard to believe there was ever any other way. Absolutely stunning.
Michael Earp
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing! Absolutely inspired interpretations of fairy tales in sculpture form. More detailed review to come (hopefully).
Arielle Walker
Well this is a thing of pure beauty.
This anthology of combined visual & story snippet retellings of the Brothers Grimm's tales contains seventy-five selected fairy tales retold in the form of sculptures (one per tale), and two forewords by Neil Gaiman and Jack Zipes respectively.

Even someone who's not a fan of sculpture as an art, like me, could appreciate the creativity and beauty of Shaun Tan's sculptures. This is the first time I see a retelling series that's done in sculpture, and whilst I was expecting this to be entirely vi
Jan 05, 2017 rated it liked it
As an art book, The Singing Bones is simply incredible. Tan's sculptures are mystical, imaginative, evocative, primal... in other words, they capture the spirit of the original Grimms' fairy tales perfectly:






If you are interested, check out Tan's process in creating one of the sculptures for this book.

However, I should warn you that The Singing Bones does not really lend itself to be read from cover to cover and is best enjoyed at a pace
First sentence: There are stories, honed by the retelling, simplified by the people who recorded them and transmitted them, old stories, with the edges rubbed off them, like the pebbles on a beach, each story the perfect size and heft to send skimming over the water, or to use to strike an enemy. Folktalkes are like jokes: If they had a beginning, it is lost to us.

Premise/plot: The Singing Bones is a collection of photographs and one-page 'retellings' of Grimm fairy tales or folk tales. The pho
Jessica Healy
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, graphics
I have always loved Shaun Tan's art, and have been greedily scouring the internet for images of this series of sculptures he did for maybe a year now? I was so very excited for this book to be released, and it was even better than I imagined it would be.

I've just typed and deleted several different efforts to describe how it feels to look at the sculptures in this book, but I just can't convey it. In the foreword, Neil Gaiman says that Shaun Tan's sculptures "do not look like the moments of the
Elizabeth A
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, 2016
I'm a fan of Shaun Tan and his work, so was delighted to get my hands on this one, and it does not disappoint.

The thing to know going in is that it is not a typical book that you read. Like many of us, the author is fascinated by fairy tales, and he created little sculptures that capture the essence of 75 of the Brothers Grimm stories. I had not heard of many of these fairy tales, so it was lovely to have a little synopsis of each story at the end of the book.

The format of the book is as follow
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is like a museum production. Heavy, glossy pages. Gorgeous, minimalist sculptures inspired by Inuit & pre-Columbian artwork. And Grimm fairy tales edited to their barest words -- really just a few lines. Each story has a single, facing-page layout: the story stripped down to its most basic form facing one artwork that depicts the essence of the story. Seventy-five stories total.

A stunning piece.
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fairy-tales
10 favourite sculptures (it was hard to choose!):

The Frog King
Faithful Johannes
The White Snake
The Boots of Buffalo Leather
The Singing Bone
Lucky Hans
Snow White
All Fur
The Nixie in the Pond
The Master Thief

4.5 stars
MB (What she read)
These are really beautiful pieces of art. Their seeming simplicity is evocative and very complementary towards the Grimm tales they depict.
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I keep discovering Shaun Tan's art and I love him more and more each time. This was brilliant, the small overviews of 75 Grimm fairy tales go wonderfully together with Tan's tridimensional art. And they really look like something you could find at a museum, like the old clay figurines I so love in anthropology museums. It gives the stories a different feel.
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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

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