Friday, October 8, 2010

Book Review: Tales from Outer Suburbia

Tales from Outer Suburbia (2008) Shaun Tan

Back Jacket: You thought you knew suburbia. Then you meet an exchange student from another world, discover a secret room that lets you escape to a place of perfect beauty, find a neighborhood where brightly painted missiles decorate every yard, and wait for a blind reindeer who demands a very special offering....These are the odd, magical details of everyday suburban life that might forever go unnoticed, were they not finally brought to light by Shaun Tan, author and illustrator of award-winning New York Times bestseller The Arrival.

Review: This book is a work of art. I have always loved picture books, but it has been a long time since one captures my attention so completely that I am actually unaware of time passing. Tan's book is strange and moving. He writes with a masterful simplicity that perfectly complements his striking illustrations. There is a certain quiet quality to the book as it moves from one story to the next, each a moment--sometimes small, sometimes profound--in the lives of the story's inhabitants. I enjoyed all the stories, but my favorites included "Eric," "Distant Rain," and "No Other Country."

Conclusion: 5/5 Curious and wonderful, this book is extremely absorbing. Tan's writing and illustrations are thoughtful, humorous, and full of small but significant instances of humanity. I enjoyed it immensely at face-value, but I also have that vague sense Tan is writing with much greater depth and meaning than I am capable of comprehending. Highly recommended.


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