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Cicada by Shaun Tan


Cicada works in an office, dutifully working day after day for unappreciative bosses and being bullied by his co-workers. But one day, something truly extraordinary happens.

Cicada is Shaun Tan at his absolute best. It is his first author-illustrator book in five years, and it is well worth the wait. It is a story for anyone who has ever felt unappreciated, overlooked or overworked but dreams of magic.

Cicada, the hard-working corporate bug, is bullied by his coworkers and treated terribly by his bosses. He works for years before finally retiring and taking his life into his own hands.


Tan, who was descried as 'a masterly visually storyteller' when he won the 2011 Astrid Lindgren prize, has outdone himself with Cicada. As the author, the story is beautiful, powerful, simple, yet so complex. He takes just a few words and weaves it into a masterpiece.


But, not to be outdone, his illustrations are simply superb yet again. The process Tan goes through with each illustration is immense - sketches, models from clay and paper, before finally drawing it. Despite using such a simple colour palette, each page bursts with detail.


The story is deep, yet full of humour, and will break your heart then stitch it together again. The ending is simply perfect.


Don't be fooled by the picture book genre however. This is a sophisticated book with some very adult themes. Revolving around migrant workers, workplace bullying, loneliness, belonging, and transformation, Cicada is deep, meaningful and provocative.


Cicada, both the character and the story, will stay with me for a long time. It is an absolute treasure.


Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Hachette, RRP $29.99

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