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Tales from Outer Suburbia Hardcover – March 2, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 140 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4 Up—For those who loved Tan's surreal and evocative The Arrival (Scholastic, 2007), the Australian author follows up with a brilliant collection of illustrated vignettes. Fifteen short texts, each accompanied by Tan's signature black-and-white and full-color artwork, take the mundane world and transform it into a place of magical wonders. In the opening tale, a water buffalo sits in an abandoned suburban lot, offering silent but wise direction to those youngsters who are patient enough to follow his guidance. In "Eric," the title character (a tiny, leaflike creature) visits a family as a foreign exchange student and fascinates them with his sense of wonder. His parting gift to the family is sure to warm even the coldest heart. Other stories describe the fate of unread poetry, the presence of silent stick figures who roam the suburbs, or an expedition to the edge of a map. In spirit, these stories are something akin to the wit and wisdom of Shel Silverstein. The surrealist art of Rene Magritte also comes to mind, but perhaps Chris Van Allsburg's beloved The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (Houghton, 1984) comes closest as a comparable work. While somewhat hard to place due to the unusual nature of the piece, this book is a small treasure, or, rather, a collection of treasures.—Douglas P. Davey, Halton Hills Public Library, Ontario, Canada
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* After teaching the graphic format a thing or two about its own potential for elegance with The Arrival (2007), Tan follows up with this array of 15 extraordinary illustrated tales. But here is an achievement in diametric opposition to his silent masterpiece, as Tan combines spare words and weirdly dazzling images—in styles ranging from painting to doodles to collage—to create a unity that holds complexities of emotion seldom found in even the most mature works. The story of a water buffalo who sits in a vacant lot mysteriously pointing children “in the right direction” is whimsical but also ominous. The centerpiece, “Grandpa’s Story,” recalling a ceremonial marriage journey and the unnameable perils faced therein, captures a tone of aching melancholy and longing, but also, ultimately, a sense of deep, deep happiness. And the eerie “Stick Figures” is both a poignant and rather disturbing narrative that plays out in the washed-out daylight of suburban streets where curious, tortured creatures wait at the ends of pathways and behind bus stops. The thoughtful and engaged reader will take from these stories an experience as deep and profound as with anything he or she has ever read. Grades 7-12. --Jesse Karp --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Templar Publishing (March 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840113138
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840113136
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 7.5 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,098,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Two kids mom TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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 .
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"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.
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By JMPENS on February 24, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved this book from first sight on amazon. I had to order it and I was giddy/eager for it to arrive. When I first sat down to read this book I felt overcome with emotion. I felt that if someone had sat down specifically with the objective to make a book that would delight and please me, that they could not have done a better job. I am seriously infatuated with this book and blown away by Shaun Tan's expressive art and compelling stories. It feels like being thirsty, then drinking something so amazing that you never want to stop drinking it. I am so happy that there are minds like Shaun Tan's that create lovely, intricate, engaging art for our enjoyment. I have greatly enjoyed sharing this book with other people that I know and I keep it on my desk so that more people can enjoy it. The stories are intriguing/touching/thought-provoking. The art is deep with detail and nuance. I love this book!
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