Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tales From Outer Suburbia - Shaun Tan


Having dipped my toe into the magical world of Shaun Tan's "The Arrival", I am moving on to the only other book of Tan's that my library carries, "Tales of Outer Suburbia". While "The Arrival" was wordless, this collection of 15 illustrated stories are full of fanciful tales of magical realism. Tales that on one hand are childlike in their imagination, but contain deeper philosophical undertones that give pause to those of us old enough to understand (or NOT, in some cases!).

For example, take the story "Eric", about a shadowy leaf-like creature that comes to live with a family as a foreign exchange student. Eric prefers to sleep in the pantry (written off as a cultural thing), is curious about unexpected objects, and departs without warning, leaving behind the most precious of gifts as a thank you.

Or how about this scary, silent water buffalo that lives on a vacant lot, that gives directional advice to young children? I'm not a hundred percent sure about the message, but the image of the buffalo is arresting.
















One story tells about a dreary community where cement is painted green to simulate grass, there is a shortage of food, and a shortage of money. But then one family discovers a hidden courtyard that can only be accessed through a hole in the roof, a courtyard where everything is lush and beautiful. They discover that all houses have an inner courtyard, if you can find it, and is used as sanctuaries for each family. The imagery is amazing.

There is a community, sometime in the future, where all families are encouraged to each buy their own missile in order to help the government protect their citizens. Each family must keep their missiles functioning and clean and ready to use. But instead, the missiles are slowly disarmed and used for doghouses, tool sheds and planters. Obviously our Mr. Tan is a lover, not a fighter.














As you would expect, the illustrations each have a life of their own, ranging from breathtakingly beautiful to bizarre. This is eye candy that you won't tire of admiring.















The stories aren't all easy to understand. In fact there were some that I scratched my head and just admired the artwork. This is considered to be a children's book, but like "The Arrival" I think it would make more of an impact if some adult assistance accompanied the reading. After reading two of Tan's books, I will attest to the fact that he gets you thinking with the creative side of your brain, and away from literal interpretation, which makes for great discussion with your kids or in a classroom.

4 out of 5 stars






15 comments:

Kate said...

That looks amazing! I will definitely have to give it a read!

Beth F said...

Shoot -- had to skim and avert my eyes from the illustrations. I have this one on my TBR pile and hope to get to it within the next few weeks.

Tan is amazing.

Jeane said...

I didn't get all the stories either, but loved the images!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I agree that the stories aren't necessarily appealing or understandable to me, but his pictures are absolutely spell-binding!

Jenny said...

The pictures do look beautiful!

Zibilee said...

The more I hear about Tan, the more I want to get the chance to read some of his work. The illustrations really are beautiful, and I think that this review has convinced me to pay my library fine and order these right away! Thanks for the very persuasive review, Sandy!

Swapna said...

Those really are some great illustrations!

bermudaonion said...

I love Tan's books and think that's it's really hard to pin an age range on them. I think they say they're for younger audiences because they're not very wordy, but there is so much more to the books than the words.

Martha@Hey, I want to read that said...

I haven't taken the dive into this genre yet. Your review and pictures from the books are getting me closer to the edge.

Avid Reader said...

I loved The Arrival so I'll probably check this one out. Even if it's not quite as good, his illustrations are mesmorizing.

caite said...

love the illustrations but not sure I am ready for the magical world.

Frances said...

OOOO! I love this one but have to agree that its appeal is to middle schoolers through adults. The little ones seem more than a bit befuddled, and as you have seen, it does not play out as a read aloud to the small fry either.

Julie P. said...

This looks terrific!

Kathleen said...

The illustrations are fantastic and I'm quite sure some of the deeper meanings will be lost on me but I'll read it anyway!

Jenners said...

He does have an imagination! I think I might like this one more than I did the Lost &Found one.