The Lost Thing By Shaun Tan




In typical, Shaun Tan style, The Lost Thing is a feast for both the eyes and the imagination. The book itself professes to be short on point or moral, but that almost seems to be the point. Confusing? Yes, a bit, but definitely worth the confusion.


The story begins with the narrator agreeing to tell us a story; a simple story about a lost thing he once found.

We then hear about the circumstances in which he came across this lost thing and the journey he then went on, as a result. There is really not too much more to the plotline and the simplicity and honesty is what makes this story so beautiful.


Why I love it:

On one of the last pages of the book, it says:

Well, that’s it. That’s the story.

Not especially profound, I know, but I never said it was.

There’s something about these words and about the story as a whole, that I can’t help thinking is extremely profound. This is a story about a lost thing, that only one person notices (because everyone else is too busy) and about how the one person who does notice, then befriends and cares for the lost thing, eventually helping them find a place where lost things don’t necessarily belong, but can be happy together.

That sounds profound to me, but I love that it states that it isn’t.

I also love the illustrations and how there are details and messages incorporated into the complex pages.

This really is a beautiful book, although I must admit I remain a little confused as to why I feel that way…


Themes to discuss with your child:

  • Observations
  • Compassion
  • Friendship
  • Life
  • Feeling as though we belong
  • The need to be around others like ourselves
  • Morals
  • Story-telling
  • What it means to be lost or to be found
  • Growing older

Questions to ask your child:

Before reading:
  • What do you think this book might be about?
  • Do you think this is a fiction book (a story) or a non-fiction book (facts)?
  • Is this a book you want to read? Why/why not?
  • What do you think ‘the lost thing’ is?
  • Have you read any other books by Shaun Tan? If so, what are they?
  • What can you see in the background of the cover?
After reading:
  • Did you enjoy this story? Why/why not?
  • The story states that it has no moral/message, do you think this is true? What do you think the message of the story is?
  • Why do you think the boy was the only one to notice the lost thing on the beach?
  • Why do you think that, over time, he stopped noticing lost things?
  • Look back through the pages and find out what it was the boy found the lost thing liked to eat.
  • Why do you think he changed his mind about leaving the lost thing at The Department of Odds and Ends?
  • What would you do if you found a lost thing?

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