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Cicada by Shaun Tan

cicada by shaun tanA review by Nalini Haynes

Cicada works in an office job, possibly in the public service or at a university. He’s been there a very long time. He’s disregarded by his colleagues. He seems lonely.

This adorable book is mostly illustrated in shades of grey because Cicada’s world is so bleak, but these shades are contrasted at the end.

Shaun Tan has the Midas touch, and Cicada is no exception. However, a word of warning: I thought the action was leading to suicide. Perhaps it’s because of my experience of bullying at the University of Canberra in the year leading up to reading Cicada.

The text is in a sans serif font so it should be good for beginning readers except it is very small. The language used is simple, evoking English as a second language in a rhythm suggesting the sounds a real cicada makes.

Although Cicada can be appreciated by younger readers, to me the appeal is for the more mature, embracing Shaun Tan fans, office workers and the like. This is an excellent Christmas gift — a classic! — for that person who is depressed and frustrated in their office job or is about to embark on a sea change.

The Guardian’s review says Cicada is a meditation on belonging and bullying.

And here’s a video from Hachette, his publisher, featuring the author and artist himself.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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