'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 21 June 2009

Review: Tales from Outer Suburbia

Several years ago, I encountered a magazine called Found which features submitted 'found objects' from readers around the world. These objects range from torn grocery lists (comically taken out of context) to impassioned letters and blurred photographs.

There was a Found issue which I fondly recall. One of the readers had submitted a note that he had found attached to a red ballon. The balloon was discovered entangled in the branches of a tree in a cemetery. The note was written by a young boy addressed to his mother listing his recent activities.

The simplicity of the note combined with its haunting discovery simultaneously stirred a touch of sadness, wonder and the surreal inside me.

Tales from Outer Suburbia also incites a similar sentimental swirl of emotions.

An anthology of fifteen short stories, all are beautifully illustrated and authored by the bestselling author, Shaun Tan. Each story takes place in a surreal environment which places strange characters in an even stranger land.

Many of the stories are touched by the perspective of an outsider looking in, conveying both the heavy and humorous side of living in a foreign land. One of the stort stories, 'Eric', follows the curiosity of a leaf-like visitor that ends up teaching his host more than he expects. 'Grandpa’s Story' describes an otherworldly, desert odyssey that challenges soon-to-be-wed couples, proving “as long as we stick together, nothing can stop us!”

Tales from Outer Surburbia reads like a surreal scrapbook, complete with illustrations that look like images drawn on a lost napkin or lifted from a peculiar periodical. Other stories include a mystical water buffalo, a lawn-beached whale and a nameless holiday. Each tale is emotionally moving and engagingly illustrated.

Look for it at your local bookstore... or tied to a red balloon!

See more of Shaun Tan's amazing work at www.shauntan.net.

NEWS: Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia has won Best Illustrated Book at the Australian Publishers & Australian Booksellers Associations (ABIA) Awards! (June 09)

Title: Tales from Outer Suburbia
Author: Shaun Tan
Illustrator: Shaun Tan
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $35
Publication date: June 2008
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780545055871 
For ages: 8+
Type: Picture Book