by Shaun Tan
After reading The Arrival, I went and requested all the Shaun Tan titles I could find in my library system (sadly, they do not have The Red Tree). This was the next one that came up available for me. Tales From Outer Suburbia is a group of short stories beautifully illustrated by Suan Tan\’s distinctive art. Some are only a long paragraph, others a few pages. They\’re all set in the Australian suburbs, a place both familiar and strange to the reader. Familiar, as things happen there like in any suburb- kids go exploring, fear the mean neighbor lady (who returns toys accidentally dropped in her yard broken in half), neighbors speculate at what goes on in the house that emits yelling arguments, grandparents tell stories to their children, people come outside and gather to gawk at something unusual passing through. Because there\’s plenty of odd things going on here, too. Strange, dreamlike events either taken for granted or explored as new phenomenon by the characters. A large sea mammal shows up inexplicably lying on someone\’s front lawn, miles from the ocean. A journey through a landscape of bizarre trials precludes a wedding. A man in a deep-sea diving suit walks across the neighborhood (I think that was my favorite story). Some of the stories are tender, others amusing or just a bit unsettling. I found \”Stick Figures\” to be a tad creepy. The artwork is amazing, and I particularly like how the endpapers are decorated with many, many tiny drawings (I could spend an hour looking at just them!), information in the back of the book is listed on bits that look like library checkout cards and such, and the table of contents is designed to look like stamps (the cost in cents being the page numbers). It\’s all very clever and intricate. In that, I am reminded of the series of books about Griffin and Sabine I read years ago, and in the curious quality of the stories, I am somewhat reminded of Kafka\’s short stories, which are also very dreamlike. All in all, this is not a book to miss!
Rating: 4/5 …….. 96 pages, 2009