Review: Tales From Outer Suburbia

Posted on January 20, 2009


Tales From Outer Suburbia
By Shaun Tan
Arthur A Levine Books
February 2009
96 pages

Hidden away among this collection of 15 stories can be found this book’s heart and soul and my favorite “Distant Rain”, which ponders what becomes of poems scribbled on scraps of paper. The journey is told through illustrations of word snippets on scraps of paper, leaving readers with the impression that perhaps that is how this book of quirky tales came to be. In much the same way a brilliant inventor rummages through his workshop for a part from this and a piece of that to create something much greater and quite amazing. The kind of contraption that is spectacular by its very existence and nothing further is required. Pure art.

Each story combines common images of ordinary suburban landscape and lifestyle with imagination and a dash of fantasy, from “The Water Buffalo” in the vacant lot who always pointed people in the right direction, to annoying “Stick Figures” which appeared all over town, to the exciting “Our Expedition” to the edge of the map. Another favorite, “The Amnesia Machine” is laid out like a page from the newspaper. Surrounding headlines and bits of new stories add a fresh layer of satire to this recollection of a puzzling dream – or is it? “Alert But Not Alarmed” plays a brilliant game of what if? with the future. Open the pages and enter a world where anything can and really does happen.

Reading Tales From Outer Suburbia is like a playful romp through an art gallery while someone tells you fascinating stories to go along with the pictures. Shaun Tan has married words with illustrations and created magic.

The joy and inspiration found within these pages is indescribable. This is a book for all ages to be read over and over.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Peggy Tibbetts

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