October 2011

The Unclassifiables is a faithless adaptation of the wonderful book The Lost Thing, made with the blessing of its author Shaun Tan. It’s an Adventure in Learning aimed at Year 5 and Year 6 pupils in disadvantaged schools, targeting literacy and numeracy, resilience and giving support in transition. It draws on The Lost Thing as if it were a document of real phenomenon: unclassifiable creatures, a federation of classification and secret library agents.

State Library Victoria invited Coney to co-create an Adventure in Learning after hearing about A Cat Escapes in a presentation Tassos Stevens made at Transmedia Victoria in January 2011. Development in April 2011 identified Shaun Tan’s book, The Lost Thing, as a brilliant background for the adventure, and after a meeting with Shaun he gave his backing to a spirited and faithless adaption. Alongside developing the premise of a phenonomem of unclassified creatures, we researched with two teachers as disadvantaged schools in Melbourne to identify literacy and numeracy as key areas for curricular support, and combined these with learning in resilience and transition support from our previous research in the UK. In October 2011, we ran a successful pilot in those same two schools. We also explored methodology for evaluation of the impact of these adventures with Professor Mike Askew of Monash University.

A co-production and co-authorship with Learning Services of State Library Victoria.


“Every morning some of the pupils asked ‘When do we get our next assignment?’ and some of them are like ‘It doesn’t matter, we did something really good, we saved some unclassifiables- maybe that’s all we’re supposed to do.’’

A participating teacher in the evaluation.


Coney is here represented by Stephanie Brotchie & Tassos Stevens.

Director: Tassos Stevens
Writers: Stephanie Brotchie & Tassos Stevens
Ear: Tom Bowtell
Project manager: Stephanie Brotchie
Web design: Harry Lee
Video design: Maia Tarrell, Stephanie Brotchie & Vachel Spiraison
Research assistants: Alex Rowse & Toby Peach