Tales from Outer Suburbia

Shaun Tan, Author
Shaun Tan, Author . Scholastic/Levine $19.99 (96p) ISBN 978-0-545-05587-1
Reviewed on: 11/03/2008
Release date: 02/01/2009
Paperback - 92 pages - 978-0-545-05588-8
Ebook - 96 pages - 978-1-74176-004-0
Hardcover - 88 pages - 978-4-309-20577-9
Hardcover - 96 pages - 978-1-74114-917-3
Hardcover - 90 pages - 978-89-5828-393-5
Hardcover - 96 pages - 978-0-7710-8402-7
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The term “suburbia” may conjure visions of vast and generic sameness, but in his hypnotic collection of 15 short stories and meditations, Tan does for the sprawling landscape what he did for the metropolis in The Arrival .Here, the emotional can be manifest physically (in “No Other Country,” a down-on-its-luck family finds literal refuge in a magic “inner courtyard” in their attic) and the familiar is twisted unsettlingly (a reindeer appears annually in “The Nameless Holiday” to take away objects “so loved that their loss will be felt like the snapping of a cord to the heart”). Tan's mixed-media art draws readers into the strange settings, à la The Mysteries of Harris Burdick . In “Alert but Not Armed,” a double-page spread heightens the ludicrousness of a nation in which every house has a government missile in the yard; they tower over the neighborhood, painted in cheery pastels and used as birdhouses (“If there are families in faraway countries with their own backyard missiles, armed and pointed back at us, we would hope that they too have found a much better use for them,” the story ends). Ideas and imagery both beautiful and disturbing will linger. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)

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