Tales from Outer Suburbia
By Shaun Tan
Arthur A Levine Books, 2009
I honestly do not know where to begin in reviewing this odd, gorgeous, mystifying, little book. It is quite unlike anything I have ever read before. I’ve read lots of graphically based books (I wouldn’t call this a graphic novel), but not that many short stories. And I’m not sure that I have ever read a graphic book that so perfectly married words with art. No, no, I don’t think I have.
In these 15 “tales” Tan takes us on a magical ride through the lives of deep sea divers, tiny little leaf men, water buffalo and dugongs. There are giant mechanical penguins and a ingenious little…hmm…I’m not sure what he is, but he’s cute (Eric), and getaway cars carrying turtles. Every story has its own style of art and its own very large heart. Some stories seem sad, some happy, hopeful or poignant. Yet what struck me the most about them is how each one encourages you to look beyond your existence and find something more.
Don’t be quick to give up on the road of life with your beloved, all your struggles may just lead to something even greater than you imagined. Follow the insistent pointing finger of the wise water buffalo. If you want to find out what is beyond the edge of the map, walk out and find what is waiting there. Write the poetry of your heart, no matter what you think of it now, it has a purpose and it’s lovely and it does not die but becomes part of something much larger than yourself. And on and on. All these stories come together to create a lasting work of art that is sure to stay in your mind for a long time to come. I know they have with me.
I really feel I haven’t given this lovely little book justice but I hope you will take me at my word and give it a read. I think everyone can take something magical from the experience. And all the pictures I’ve share can be clicked to see larger. Please click.
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