I read this book myself and found it a bit puzzling and challenging. The book is a series of short stories, poetry and very elaborate sketches. The best way to read it is very slowly and one story at a time. Sort of like eating a very decadent dessert, one needs to pause between bites to savor the richness. It is quite different, a bit surreal, but ultimately enjoyable for those of us who appreciate a little strangeness in our day. It is a quick read overall but the extensive drawings invite longer contemplation.
I gave this book in turn to both of my children, ages 9 (girl) and 12 (boy). Both are "gifted" and excellent readers. The text itself was not a challenge for them. Their reactions were quite different however.
My 12 year old son enjoyed it. He drew parallels between many of the short stories and other books he has read. This is a kid who is himself a little different, interested in topics that are perhaps not typical for a preteen. He poured over the illustrations, pointing out bits and pieces that especially intrigued him. The book prompted discussions about the Holocaust, insanity, perception of reality and method of transport for marine animals. Quite the variety! He then went online to see if he could order any more books like it from the library.
He has to say:
"I thought this book was very interesting although it is short. This book is a book of short stories with very interesting topics. I personally liked this book.When I mean interesting I mean strange for example Water Buffalos pointing directions and very wierd foreign exchange students. So I hope you will enjoy the book Tales from Outer Suburbia . "
My daughter read about half the book and told me that it was "too weird" and that
"GPS buffalos" and exchange students who live in the closet do not belong in the same book. Perhaps it is a question of maturity, or maybe even gender, but she wanted nothing more to do with it.
I think this book will appeal to those with a quirky outlook on life, those who are willing to dig a little deeper into literature and those who are very visual. From my experience, the book requires a certain level of maturity and experience with other literature for true enjoyment.
This is an interesting book, to say the least. It says it's for kids 12 and older, and I would agree. Younger children would probably find it... a bit confusing.
There are a number of short stories, some as short as a page. The illustrations are pretty cool, and there are a lot of them. A couple of the stories have quite a few pages of drawings to go with the short text. They help to flesh out the story more visually.
When I said some may find them confusing, I mean that the author doesn't really end the stories. They are mostly open ended, making the reader ask some questions, and continue the story in their own mind and imagination. This isn't a bad thing at all, it's a good way to get kids to stretch their minds a bit. But for some with extremely short attention spans, or too young, it can be a little trying.
One of my favorites was about what happens to poetry that no one reads, gets tucked away in books, behind things, etc. It was pretty much entirely illustrated. You read it on scraps of paper that seem to have randomly come together to create the story. Quite inventive, and imaginative.
"On a cold night last winter there was a fire at the house of a man who only days before had beaten his dog to death. Being a strong man, he was able to rescue all his belongings single-handedly, carryng them out of the burning building and onto the front lawn. As soon as he finished, a hundred dogs of every shape and size trotted into the flickering light from the surrounding shadows and promptly sat on top of every appliance a piece of furniture as if it were there own. They would not let the man come close and snapped at him viciously when he tried to hit them, but otherwise remained still, staring impassively at the flames." -- From the story Wake, in Tales from Outer Suburbia
I hadn't heard of Shaun Tan when I selected Tales from Outer Suburbia from the Amazon Vine Program, but the cover on the Advanced Copy was enough to snag my interest.
In all the thousands of books I've read over the years, I can honestly say I have never seen anything like Tales from Outer Suburbia! For those who appreciate idiosyncratic art, skewed (yet poetic) observations, and unusual presentation, this book will be right up your alley.
Geared towards children aged 12 and up (but prized by adults of any age who are inspired by utter originality), Tales from Outer Suburbia fifteen "stories" accompanied by Tan's stunning, pleasantly strange artwork. One "story" is a public service announcement about making your own pet out of discarded items, while another describes a hidden world found in attics all around a neighborhood.
Stick figures roam the suburbs in yet another story, while a bizarre nameless holiday chronicles the yearly ritual of leaving one's most prized possessions under a decorated TV roof antennae for an enormous, blind reindeer to hook upon its antlers before leaping gracefully, taking the beloved objects with him.
And what book can boast that theTable of Contents is just as handsome and original as the rest of its pages? Well, Tales from Outer Suburbia can! The TofC looks like a plain brown mailing envelope with the publisher information as the return address, the mailing address serving as the dedication, and actual story titles represented by mailing stamps--complete with title, story art and page number (the page numbers being the "cost" of the stamp). Too awesome!
If your pre-teen or young adult appreciates smart writing and skilled artistry in various forms, Tales from Outer Suburbia would be a superb addition to their library. Adults who love unusual tales would also appreciate this 96-page book, as would writers and artists who would benefit from a delightful jolt of inspiration and whimsy.
Next, I look forward to reading Tan's acclaimed book The Arrival!
-- Janet Boyer, author of The Back in Time Tarot Book
When I read this book I was completely unfamiliar with Shaun Tan so I really had no idea what to expect. The art is strong, intriguing and caught my attention immediately. The stories are imaginative and seem to suggest multiple levels of meaning.
Both art and story line combine elements of realism and fantasy in a way that provokes one to think. This book will probably be most appreciated by older readers with vivid imaginations. If a reader can easily set aside conventional perspectives and simply go with the assumptions presented then it is more likely the reader can appreciate this book.
In summary, this book is a series of fantasy vignettes with a morality twist; if the reader is either a fan of fantasy or Shaun Tan then this book may please.
Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan is unlike anything I have ever "read". As has been said you "read" it via wonderfully drawn art--there are very few words in the entire book which forces you outside your comfort zone right away. As Americans we like things clearly laid out and able for us to understand at a glance. This book takes that power away from you and forces you to examine the art for both the story line and then as hints to the meaning. This provides the result of people creating their own personal meaning to stories. Overall the book reminds me of seeing someone dreams and trying to figure out the meaning behind them.
As has been said, early teens will "see" different things but re-reading this book over time will change the story for them so I think I view it as a good thing--if they like it enough to revisit it again. It is hard to put a number (rating) on something so personal but that is exactly the point.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, Shaun Tan would have won the lottery with his new book! Following the success of Tan's 2007 hit, The Arrival, he is sure to awe fan with "Tales from Outer Suburbia." And all without a single wizard, no spells or incantations and very few words. This collection of fifteen seemingly random illustrations, doodles and extravagant collages is something beautiful, emotionally riveting and morally uplifting...for those who take a moment, slow down and genuinely peruse the pages. With stories like "Grandpa's Journey," "missiles in the backyard" and "the buffalo sitting in a vacant lot," the images express what at first appears erratic and silly, but looking deeper reveals that there is a great deal hidden in plain sight. The true genius is how the book conveys something different to each individual that reads it. What the person takes away from this reading experience may well depend on what they brought with them when they opened the book. Images, both alluring and hauntingly serious combine to create a stunning, incredibly unique book.
I would definitely reserve this particular selection for those 12+, as younger kids may be confused by the imagery. This is a wonderful book to share with your child - the added guidance and opportunity to explain various points, not to mention the quality time together, are priceless. And hearing your child's interpretation of the scenes is often humorous, revealing and quite touching. As always parents should utilize their own judgment, when choosing material, because you know your child better than anyone.
This is a very different book by Shaun Tan, author of the also very different (and wordless but awesome) The Arrival.
Tales from Outer Suburbia is a collection of 15 short stories that are beautifully and intriguingly illustrated, in the style of a graphic novel. The tales range in length from 1 page to a dozen. The content is bizarre and somewhat random on the surface, but given thought, the stories really do speak to some universal truths (racism, for one example, finding joy where there was only despair for another) of the world.
Some of my favorites include the short but telling 'Water Buffalo' (is the Water Buffalo perhaps God?), the very sweet 'Eric' about a foreign exchange student who lives in the pantry, the poem (?) 'Distant Rain', and the very thought -provoking 'Stick Figures' (about people who are different), 'No Other Country' (about finding good things where you think there are none), and 'The Nameless Holiday' (about what you gain when you give up what is dearest to you).
As far as target audience, this book is advertised as being for 7th grade and up. I personally think that this book would appeal to some middle schoolers - perhaps those who are a little different themselves, or those who are very smart. It would be a GREAT book to teach to middle-schoolers. Otherwise it might be a little over the heads of the younger teens. For anyone who appreciates things that are a little 'outside the box', this is a great read.
This book is bursting with imaginative artwork and creative stories. Tweens and younger Teens should find this particularly enjoyable - the artwork is detailed and complements the stories amazingly well. The stories are short but each one gives the reader glimpses of different viewpoints - what if's that encourage the reader to stretch his or her mind and expand conventional thought past the mundane. This book can be read and enjoyed by adults as well because the stories and graphics can affect readers in different ways and on different levels. My favorite stories were ERIC about an unusual exchange student and ALERT BUT NOT ALARMED about the concept of security in a volatile world.
on October 11, 2014
Tales from Outer Suburbia is perhaps the most Australian of Tan's books, and definitely very Western Australian. Tan is native from the northern suburbs of Perth WA, and the landscapes, urban furniture and fauna he depicts are just part of Perth's visual idiosyncrasy.
This book is atypical, in two ways. Firstly, Tan, usually very concise in the wording of his books and in the use of words in them, writes a lot in here, and the text is as important as the images. This is so, because this is a semi-memoir of Tan's childhood, and the stories part of his emotional memory growing up in Perth. Secondly, visually speaking, this book is eclectic in styles, because he he uses very different illustration and painting techniques and styles to accompany the different stories, which remind the reader of the ones used in his previous books. In that regard, the book is less congruent visually than his previous ones.
What is still typical of Tan is his mastery at drawing, its ability to create magic realism from the quotidian, to create visually appealing almost-touchable images, absurd meaningful scenes, and quirky funny adorable characters. I love the way he uses his images to create mock newspapers news, mock Post envelopes, mock wall-collages, how he incorporate the credits and acknowledgements in a borrowing slip library card or an envelop, his mock postage stamps, the quirky funny magical sketches that cover the inner front and back covers of the book.
Some of his usual themes are also here, especially the concepts of foreign (how foreigners see us, how we see foreigners, what foreign is) and of how our childhood memories never fade out in our hearts, no matter how mundane they were, because the way we lived and perceived them.
The stories in the book are:
>> The Water Buffalo.
>> Eric (this is one of my favourite in drawing style and message -very similar to the Arrival- and because Eric is just the bomb!)
>> Broken Toys.
>> Grandpa's Story (Another favourite because of the narrative, and how Tan turns a real story into something really magical).
>> The other country (Because it depicts his contact with the Mediterranean culture and the magic in it. The painting is also very Mediterranean!)
>> Stick Figures (I love the visuals of this one because it depicts Perth summer landscape very well).
>> The Nameless Holiday.
>> Alert but not alarmed
>> Make your Own Pet.
>> Our Expedition.
>> Night of the Turtle Rescue
To be honest, every story is wonderful.
on February 25, 2009
Shaun Tan wowed readers young and old with his magnificent sepia-toned wordless graphic novel, THE ARRIVAL, about a young man's journey to a bizarre new world to start a life for his family. The New York Times called it the "Best Illustrated Book of 2007." It also made Publishers Weekly's, School Library Journal's and Horn Book's "Best Book" lists for the year. It should be of no surprise, therefore, that his latest collection of short stories and artful collages, titled TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA, carries much of the same weight and majesty as its predecessor.
The 15 skillfully constructed pieces in TALES are truly breathtaking to experience, each in its own way. All are accompanied by whimsical illustrations (some done in pen and ink, some presumably in watercolors/acrylic/oil paint, others in what looks like words or images drawn on torn pieces of paper and pasted on top of a painted background) that do much more than provide a simple backdrop for the story being told. In fact, many of these works of art tell powerful stories of their own.
In "eric," a foreign exchange student (drawn as a waify black cat-like figure) is awed by the trinkets and cultural oddities he picks up off the ground during his stay. As a parting gift to his host family, he leaves behind his stash (shown on the last spread in black and white sketchings, peppered by splashes of radiant color) and, therefore, a window into what it must have felt like for him to spend time with them in an unknown environment.
In the wonderfully tender "grandpa's story," a crumbly and loveable grandfather shares the story of his wedding day with his rapt grandkids. As only the best grandparents can do, he weaves an enthralling tale of their journey "past all the factories and landfills" and "beyond on the signs and roads" as they embark on a wild Scavenger Hunt to find a list of objects required for their wedding. The stunning illustrations show them being attacked by angry unplugged TVs, riotous tree roots, hordes of wind-up penguins and other fanciful villains. Of course, the two lovebirds overcome their obstacles against all odds, and the ending is so knowingly touching, it just might bring tears to your eyes.
As seen in many of his previous works, Tan takes to soapboxing in some of these pieces --- but always in a digestible and unimposing way. "The Amnesia Machine" (laid out in a newspaper-clipping format) takes on subliminal advertisements, corrupt governments, rising unemployment and the environmental crisis in a delightfully chuckle-worthy tone one might find in The Onion. "alert but not alarmed" imagines a Ray Bradbury-esque world where nuclear "backyard missiles" are used as flower pots, dog kennels and pizza ovens instead of weapons of war. "stick figures" and "no other country" riff on what it means to be a "stranger in a strange land" while also extolling the often unseen advantages to one's home environment.
All in all, there isn't a vignette in this book that dips below expectations --- it's a solid, heavy-hitting package through and through. It's worth repeating that Tan has a gift for expressing the inexpressible and highlighting those universally poignant moments that life surprises us with from time to time, through his careful coupling of words and art --- a balance many authors or illustrators might find difficult to replicate. It also goes without saying that while this collection is slated for a young adult audience, it's strongly recommended for adults as well. With all the fluff and vapid picture books on the market these days, Tan's rare talent and sophisticated offerings are a much-needed breath of fresh air.
--- Reviewed by Alexis Burling