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Cicada - Shaun Tan

Hardcover Published: 26th June 2018
ISBN: 9780734418630
Number Of Pages: 32
For Ages: 6+ years old

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The story of a cicada who works in an office, and all the people who don't appreciate him. The new picture book from multi-award-winner Shaun Tan, author of The Arrival, The Lost Thing and Rules of Summer.

Cicada work in tall building.
Data entry clerk. Seventeen year.
No sick day. No mistake.
Tok Tok Tok!

Cicada works in an office, dutifully toiling day after day for unappreciative bosses and being bullied by his coworkers. But one day, cicada goes to the roof of the building, and something truly extraordinary happens ...

A story for anyone who has ever felt unappreciated, overlooked or overworked, from Australia's most acclaimed picture book creator.

Industry Reviews

Shaun Tan has done it again. Cicada is excellent. Although more distinctly a narrative picture book than some of his others, Cicada's darkness breeds a rich subtext that will serve well in classrooms and resonate with older children and adults. The journey of the eponymous cicada-an unappreciated, abused office worker-reimagines the peculiar life cycle of these extraordinary creatures in a stark, bleak, near-monochromatic human office environment, where all but the besuited insect are faceless, and the maze of cubicles look like Escher's might have if he'd had the joy stamped out of him. The concrete, minimalist illustrations Tan uses here contrast with his earlier work, and the seemingly simple story is multilayered, lending itself to various readings. Told in Cicada's broken English, the short narrative also conjures metaphors with the refugee experience. The mood of the story shifts at the end though it retains some ambiguity (the cathartic change in colour palette recalls the uplifting end of The Red Tree). Cicada's strangely addictive little refrain of 'Tok Tok Tok!', which echoes the insect's call as well as a mindless, keyboard-tapping corporate world, will stay with you, as will this beautiful book. - Books and Publishing

This is a terrific book that works on so many levels


This is a book that is both heartbreaking and uplifting. It is rich with themes of bullying and racism embedded within the overarching narrative of the lifecycle of the cicada. It really is quite thoughtful and clever. The illustrations are also terrific. We borrowed this from the library before purchasing. My children (7 and 5) are really quite taken with this book.

Blue Mountains

Shaun Tan is in a class of his own.


A beautifully illustrated take on modern life. In just a handful of pages, Cicada takes you through the full range of emotions and leaves you questions to ponder. This is not just for children, but for all ages. I love it.

Sunshine coast




I found this book incredibly depressing. It is not a book that I would choose to read to a young child. It is a book that I feel you need skills and language to explain about suicide - that's how I interpreted it anyway. I was very disappointed after reading reviews about it being a beautiful book, with a great message - jump off a building after having a terrible life???? Not being accepted for years and years. Sorry, but i'm not sure what to do with this book now.

Western Victoria


simply beautiful


this is a classic Shaun Tan. Simple but beautifully told story



Not a very engaging book


I purchased this book for my boys after reading a review on it. The book vaguely covers the cicadas life span of 17 years underground, but hidden in context. The grammar is atrocious. I wasn't sure if it was just written in character form, however for a young child, it's confusing and is teaching children incorrect sentence structure. I hate to say it, but it's almost as if an Asian has written it, and poorly translated it into english. I would not recommend it for younger children. Maybe older children, however it could come across boring with such a lack of quality literature.

Gold Coast


highly recommend it, amazing book


Love the paintings


utterly charming


Cicada is a picture-book intended for 7-9-year-olds, written and skilfully illustrated by award-winning Australian illustrator and author, Shaun Tan. Cicada has been working tirelessly as a data processor, without thanks, or privilege or reward, for the same humans, for seventeen years. Seventeen years: we may not remember the significance of that period of time until the aha! moment, when it will bring a smile to the faces of most readers. Tan combines his evocative artwork with a poignant but clever little tale that may well make the reader look a little differently at the humble cicada. Could they really be laughing at us? Utterly charming.



wonderful moral in this book.


Great gift for kids,wonderful moral in this book.





i took this to Book Chat last week. I read it aloud and showed the pictures. To a woman, they wept and cheered. Stunning pictures, with a brutalism equaled in the words...until the end.

Bermagui NSW


Sad/beautiful story.


Beautiful fairytale which talks to us about triumph over bullying and self esteem. Loved it.

Blue Mountains



4.3 12


ISBN: 9780734418630
ISBN-10: 0734418639
Audience: Children
For Ages: 6+ years old
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 32
Published: 26th June 2018
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 28.5 x 22.3  x 0.9
Weight (kg): 0.42
Edition Number: 1

Shaun Tan

About the Author

Shaun Tan grew up in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. In school he became known as the 'good drawer' which partly compensated for always being the shortest kid in every class. He graduated from the University of WA in 1995 with joint honours in Fine Arts and English Literature, and currently works as an artist and author in Melbourne.

Shaun began drawing and painting images for science fiction and horror stories in small-press magazines as a teenager, and has since become best known for illustrated books that deal with social, political and historical subjects through surreal, dream-like imagery. The Rabbits, The Red Tree, Tales from Outer Suburbia, Rules of Summer and the acclaimed wordless novel The Arrival have been widely translated and enjoyed by readers of all ages. Shaun has also worked as a theatre designer, a concept artist for animated films including Pixar's WALL-E, and directed the Academy Award-winning short film The Lost Thing with Passion Pictures Australia. In 2011 he received the presitgious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, honouring his contribution to international children's literature.

To read Shaun’s revealing answers to the Booktopia Book Guru’s TEN TERRIFYING QUESTIONS…and to leave a comment - CLICK HERE

Visit Shaun Tan's Booktopia Author Page