Tales from Outer Suburbia
by Tan, Shaun
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School Library Journal Gr 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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly 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, a 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list *Starred Review* After teaching the graphic format a thing or two about its own potential for elegance withThe 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 storiesan experience as deep and profound as with anything he or she has ever read.--Karp, Jesse Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal Chris Van Allsburg meets The Outer Limits. Fifteen tales illustrate how ordinary suburban existence can take a turn toward the fantastical. Tan, the author of the wordless graphic novel The Arrival (Scholastic, 2007), here combines his artistic gifts with short, first-person stories that send the mind off in magical directions. Whether following the sage advice of a neighborhood water buffalo or falling off the end of the world, the narrators in these stories invite the reader to ask, "What happens next?" Why It Is for Us: Reminiscent of Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (1984), this is a fun (if sometimes bittersweet) collection for those of us who long for a little dose of the extraordinary in the midst of everyday life.-Angelina Benedetti, King Cty. Lib. Syst., WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.