Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Lost Thing

All books have to be categorized and put into appropriate and designated slots. Then, a book comes along that cannot be categorized - it has illustrations and the illustrations are cartoonish; and lot of other things that seem to say something, but we do not have time to find out. Quick, we need to find out where this book has to go. Hmmm!. Aren't the illustrations bit odd and look like comics/cartoons? It has to be a book for children and it is tucked away into a corner shelf under children's books category. Case solved. Our collective conscious is happy that it fits somewhere and we happily go back to our regular monotony.

Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing is one such book that should not be categorized, but our un-written rules do not allow it - we have it written down as a book for kids. The book is also about various things and people that do not fall into any category and we are in a hurry to avoid them and get back into our own cocoon.

The story is set in a place and location that looks a lot like our suburbs - endless, monotonous looking buildings and a regimented life style. Everything is orderly and everything is controlled and delivered by a massive governmental setup. Our friend in the book, Shaun, goes around collecting bottle-tops, where he notices a rather odd thing - something that was lost and did not belong to that area. The lost thing did not seem to do anything useful; it just sat around and looked very different from things around. The lost thing was a great fun though and Shaun continues to play with it for the rest of the day and realises at the end of the day that the lost thing is really, really lost. No one seem to be worried about it. He makes a few enquires, but every one is busy with their daily work and activities. He takes the lost thing to his friend's place - Pete. He is just as un-helpful as rest of them. He takes it home; but, his parents do not even seem to have realised that there is something new in their house. He lodges it in his back shed and tries hard to find it a home. His efforts to find the lost thing a home forms the rest of the story.

While the story mentioned above is the main story; there is an underlying theme about extreme government regulations, censorship and how our lives have become monotonous. This underlying theme is depicted in a funny manner with various circulars/advertisements scattered around the book. The governmental circulars and advertisements are shown with a symbol of pig (probably a salute to George Orwell's Animal Farm). The various government departments depicted include -
The Federal Department of Odds and Ends whose motto is 'Sweepus underum carpatae'.
The Federal Department of Economics whose motto is 'consumere ergo sum'.
The Federal Department of Management whose motto is 'bureaucritae opacus'.

The most sarcastic and funny federal Government advertisement, in my opinion, is - The Federal Government of Information whose motto is 'Ignorare regulatum' and who run a state sponsored thought of the day that says : LET THE MARKET DECIDE.

This book has been categorized in Amazon for children between Ages 4-8. What? This book will appeal to all; the kids might love the Lost Thing and adults can try to figure out what the underlying theme is.

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