The Singing Bones

192p. photos. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Oct. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780545946124.
Gr 5 Up—Tan's latest holds a complete art exhibit within its pages of photographs and excerpts from Grimms' folktales and fairy tales. Tan has thoughtfully paired 75 of his original sculptures with paragraphs from the Brothers' familiar and obscure selections. Inspired by Inuit stone carvings and pre-Columbian clay figures, Tan's sculptures exude a fresh, naive style. When combined with the texts, the seemingly simple sculptural forms become as complex as the tales they represent. With a foreword by Neil Gaiman and commentary by folklore scholar Jack Zipes, this volume is a first of its kind contribution to the genre. Since each piece provides only a snippet of the accompanying story, the book follows up with summaries of the fairy tales and suggestions for further reading. Younger audiences may be frustrated by the vague texts chosen to illustrate the sculptures. In fact, the book's entire concept may be too esoteric for anyone preferring elaborate decoration and happily-ever-after endings. However, the images, rendered from air-dry clay, papier-mâché, paint, and found objects from nature, are, by turns, fanciful, gruesome, and thought provoking. The book is expertly minimalist, providing potential opportunities for discussion of story elements, art appreciation, and philosophy for a wide age range.
VERDICT A unique addition to special and robust folktale and fairy-tale and/or art collections.

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