Friday, January 30, 2009

Tales From Outer Suburbia

Shaun Tan
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The new book from Shaun Tan (of The Arrival) is a book of short stories that take place in a bizarre suburb. This book is more like a picture book than a graphic novel, mostly prose with illustrations that usually just paint a picture of events in the stories, but sometimes illustrate a part of the story. The fifteen stories offered here (some of which are a page long, while others span over a dozen), are quite odd. Some are magical and really beautiful, but others seem strange just for the sake of being strange, and didn’t connect with me very well. The illustrations throughout Tales from Outer Suburbia are stellar and when this book is on, it is really on, like with “Eric,” about a strange foreign exchange student who set up a room in a family’s cupboard, and “No Other Country,” which sees a family’s happy discovery of a courtyard “room” in their house where no room could logically be. Another story I really like is “Our Expedition,” about two brothers who trek across the suburb to see what’s at the end of their father’s road map. But then there are chapters like “The Nameless Holiday” and “Make Your Own Pet” that are dull and instantly forgettable. Overall, I did like this book. I think these stories would be fun to read out loud to a child, and this is really a children’s book before anything else, so in that regard, it's successful. There are certainly a few stumbles through Suburbia along the way, but it is fun and it is beautiful.

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