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The Red Tree

4.52  ·  Rating details ·  5,158 ratings  ·  647 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
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published April 15th 2003 by Simply Read Books (first published August 1st 2001)
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Helen That is up to you as a parent. I would say that the book is targeted at an older audience but if you feel she may identify with the main character, th…moreThat is up to you as a parent. I would say that the book is targeted at an older audience but if you feel she may identify with the main character, the book does give hope at the end so it could be helpful.
I think you should read it first and then make up your mind. (less)

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Average rating 4.52  · 
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 ·  5,158 ratings  ·  647 reviews

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Ahmad Sharabiani
The Red Tree, Shaun Tan

The Red Tree (2001), written and illustrated by Shaun Tan, is a picture book that presents a fragmented journey through a dark world. The illustrations are surreal.

The text is sparse and matches the dark illustrations. Shaun Tan's illustrations are remarkable for the way they combine and react upon each other.

He creates an otherworldly labyrinth of visual ideas joined with the familiar immediacy of the little child, and condenses them into scenes of extraordinary depth a
Jen Campbell
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Quite possibly the most beautiful picturebook I've ever read.
(Also, it made me cry.)
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Every reader in existance.
This book was on the hold shelf at work, waiting for a student to pick up. I have just read it at work. What a beautiful book! This is a gentle, beautifully illustrated and simply gorgeous story in all senses! I love when I witness fabulous art, it is divine. Simply told, we see darkness envelope a small soul, feel the angst and the desperation, and finally the fog begins to clear. It is bleak for some time, but there is a break in the stifling clouds. A gradual relief to a burdensome feeling. I ...more
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Manny by: notgettingenough

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.
April (Aprilius Maximus)
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, anxiety
This is perfection in a picture book.
Sam Quixote
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shaun Tan's "The Red Tree" is a sparely scripted book with incredible paintings telling 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 character. It's a more frigh
Aug 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Hilary by: Found in the library
2.5 stars. I found this gloomy, I get the idea, when things are bad there's light at the end of the tunnel. The red tree at the end of this girls depression was like the red leaf at the end of Crime and Punishment, that little bit of hope. Perhaps this book would be comforting to a child who felt depressed, I don't know.
Jul 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture
This is included in Lost & Found with interesting comment from Tan that in general adults were more likely to assess this book as too depressing while children pointed out details of hope or encouragement sprinkled throughout the illustrations. I didn't really lean one way or the other but felt that it was an accurate portrayal of a mood or feeling. Some days (or weeks, or months) ARE really bad. Kids can be depressed, too, and telling them they aren't does them no service. I really appreciated ...more
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Talking of books that have had a deep effect on me, I recalled this picture book and just had to re-visit it.

There are not many words in these pages and yet Shaun Tan communicates an incredibly poignant narrative. It isn't really a story as such but a visual metaphor for depression, alienness, isolation... and hope. A little girl wakes up one morning - Sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to - a few dark leaves floating around her, that turn into a flood she has to wade
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens
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
This is a book I keep on my shelf to reread after particularly trying days. I adore it.

First picked up in my favourite bookstore at the time, Readers Feast, in Melbourne, circa 2002. It is everything I love about Shaun Tan, a kind of beautifully illustrated melancholy that you can return to again and again.
Since then I have slowly collected up most of his works and would count him as my favourite illustrator.

The Arrival is his masterpiece but this book will always be my first love.
Liz* Fashionably Late
2014 has been a crappy year for me. It has. And I'm not complaining, I'm just saying that when I opened this book I was aware of that fact. And it spoke to my heart through words and colors and emotions you can't just express with words.

You might feel alone, you might sense a grey cloud over you, you might feel the need to define yourself every day but know this: when you least expect it, something good will be waiting for you.

You just need to be patient and it will find you.

Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Have you heard of Shaun Tan? I was first introduced to his beautiful books at an English Language Arts workshop a few years back, The Arrival remains one of my favorite "wordless" books. Stunningly beautiful illustrations, I recently used this book in my class as a writing prompt for my grade 7 and 8 students. It was so interesting to hear the different ways in which they interpreted the message or theme of the book. Highly recommended! ...more
Lisa Vegan
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comic-manga
I now declare myself a Shaun Tan fan.
the way this book was put together had me saying "how even?"
I had never read a book that discusses depression in a way that was so precise and vivid yet so magical and incorporeal like this picture book.
this will be an emotional read because of the subject it deals with, be warned.
Renée Paule
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. It's so true to life and deeply meaningful.
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simple story about things that do happen and how at the end might end up totally different. Shaun Tan knows how to draw and how to share, big emotions on tiny space.

First sentence:
Sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward

Last sentence:
Just as you imagined it would be

Goodreads Challenge 2019: 43. kniha
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers Looking for the Perfect Picture-Book Depiction of Depression
"sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to," begins this stunning picture book, which - with its flawless blend of text and picture - expresses the reality of depression better than any other book I have seen. Each page adds another simple sentence, and another complex layer of emotion, to this unfolding story of despair. The pessimism of the opening line is followed by a descent into hopelessness, a sense of overwhelming darkness, and the conviction that it is futile to attempt t ...more
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Darkness overcomes you nobody understands the world is a deaf machine.”

"The Red Tree" is another surreal, nightmarish and utterly compelling piece of work from Tan, which sees a giant, tear stained fish swim through a mysterious street, a deep sea diver stuck inside a discarded bottle and many other powerful images which crawl deep into your head.

This is a bit like Tim Burton meets Salvador Dali with a flinty wink to Giger. This isn’t a book which likes to g
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shaun Tan has been one illustrator/author I’ve had my eye on for awhile! I liked how, “The Red Tree”, is for the young or old and how emotions are displayed as metaphors through these gorgeous illustrations. Can’t wait to read more from him in the future!
khrys ♡《thewafflegirl》
I'm 13, but this picture book absolutely knocked me off my feet. It actually reminded me a lot of Vampyre. Sometimes, all the letters in the alphabet, all the letters in your keyboard, can’t express how you feel, y'know? You just gotta do it with images.

But what is The Red Tree about?

It’s about a young girl going through a tough time as she experiences depression. It starts off with her waking up into a bad day although she just woke up and nothing bad has happened yet, and the day progresses w
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Nojood Alsudairi
Oct 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
May 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: how-picture-book
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.
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A little gem of a book, beautifully drawn.
John of Canada
Brilliant.Words cannot...
Amy Beckett
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This was such an interesting read, and although one could argue it is rather dispiriting, I think it sends such an important message to the reader that it is really ok to not be ok. Many children in their life will ‘sometimes’ feel down, purposeless and confused about the life they lead. But Tan demonstrates that amongst these despairing thoughts that are so human and relevant to many of us, the red tree signifies that despite this, there is always hope. He eloquently presents this by leaving a ...more
Deborah Ideiosepius
This is a stunningly beautiful children's book - though I see no reason why it is not an adult book also, as long as the adult has appreciation for art and poetry.

It is a 27 page book with a genuine message delivered with candid, stark beauty. It is about waking up, with desperation and no hope and going through the day lonely and isolated. In heart rendering, beautiful artwork the inner life of depression is made visual. Each page has a different piece of artwork with as little as a few words,
Nadhira Ramadhani
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is absolutely stunning! Blown my mind and has left me speechless! The powerful illustrations somehow reminded me of my old art lessons, when my teacher was teaching me about 'Salvador Dali Art On Surrealism'. The poetry, the imagery that i want to express cannot be expressed! Its that amazing!

I have still have mixed views whether I will read this to a younger audience (5-7 years old), but there is no harm in introducing them to the notion that with every struggle that we endure in life
Jun 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
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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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