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Tales from Outer Suburbiaby Shaun Tan
This set of illustrated short stories by staff favorite Shaun Tan offers a fabulous showcase of his range as an artist. Many of his stories are open-ended, which immediately drew a comparison in my mind to The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. Tales from Outer Suburbia is the best of short story writing, as well — simple but multi-layered — making it a great book club book as well. I have read this book four times now and, really, I can't articulate how much I love it.
"[Tan]...does not disappoint his readers with this collection of 15 vignettes, each drawing from the oddities of suburban life....[T]he stories and the art form a bridge between the fantastic world and the real world." Sarah Miller, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
An exchange student who's really an alien, a secret room that becomes the perfect place for a quick escape, a typical tale of grandfatherly exaggeration that is actually even more bizarre than he says...
These are the odd details of everyday life that grow and take on an incredible life of their own in tales and illustrations that Shaun Tan's many fans will love.
"The term 'suburbia' may conjure visions of vast and generic sameness, but in his hypnotic collection of 15 short stories and meditations, Tan does for the sprawling landscape what he did for the metropolis in The Arrival. Here, the emotional can be manifest physically (in 'No Other Country,' a down-on-its-luck family finds literal refuge in a magic 'inner courtyard' in their attic) and the familiar is twisted unsettlingly (a reindeer appears annually in 'The Nameless Holiday' to take away objects 'so loved that their loss will be felt like the snapping of a cord to the heart'). Tan's mixed-media art draws readers into the strange settings, a la The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. In 'Alert but Not Armed,' a double-page spread heightens the ludicrousness of a nation in which every house has a government missile in the yard; they tower over the neighborhood, painted in cheery pastels and used as birdhouses ('If there are families in faraway countries with their own backyard missiles, armed and pointed back at us, we would hope that they too have found a much better use for them,' the story ends). Ideas and imagery both beautiful and disturbing will linger. Ages 12up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] sparkling, mind-bending collection....Graphic-novel and text enthusiasts alike will be drawn to this breathtaking combination of words and images." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"15 extraordinary illustrated tales....The thoughtful and engaged reader will take from these stories an experience as deep and profound as with anything he or she has ever read." School Library Journal (Starred Review)
About the Author
Shaun Tan has been illustrating young adult fiction and picture books for more than ten years. His brilliant wordless book, The Arrival, won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year, the NSW Premier's Book of the Year, and the Community Relations Commission Award, and received a Special Mention at the 2007 Bologna Ragazzi Awards. He lives in Australia.
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