Tan, Shaun. The Singing Bones. 2015.

The Singing Bones is a unique book that defies classification. Not quite a graphic novel, not quite a non-fiction book, nor quite a book of fiction- it is all and yet none of these categories.

Shaun Tan the author and illustrator of the wordless graphic novel The Arrival, puts his considerable artistic talents towards creating clay works of art to evoke Grimms’ Fairy Tales. As Neil Gaiman says in the foreword , the sculptures “imply, they do not delineate”  the stories that are shown.



Tan showcases seventy-five snippets of fairy tales with accompanying art. The sculpture doesn’t tell the story, it hints at it’s essence. There are no sculptures of beautiful maidens to conjure up your memory of Cinderella or Snow White, instead the art gallery captures the idea of Grimms’ stories in abstract form.

In addition to the many tales, the book is elevated due to it’s further extras. Neil Gaiman writes a fond foreword the the book, and Jack Zipes writes an informational introduction to the history of the Grimm brothers and how the tales were collected. Once you are done enjoying the fairy tale vignettes, the author writes an afterword to explain his inspiration for this project. And while many of the tales told in the story are familiar, an annotated index is included that has a concise summary of the tales, as some are more obscure. The less known tales were to me the best to study, for you can see if what the sculpture hinted at is what you would imagine the tale to be.

So if you love singular collector pieces and fairy tales, try this book, as these museum quality works of art will please both art lovers and fairy tale enthusiasts.