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Tales from Outer Suburbia
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About the Author

Shaun Tan has been illustrating young adult fiction and picture books since 1996 and is recognised as a leading creator of 'sophisticated picture books'. The Lost Thing, 2000, described as Gary Larson meets Jeffrey Smart, contrasts the casual 'What I did on my holidays' narrative with bizarre, freakishly surreal scenes. In 2002 The Red Tree won Patricia Wrightson Award, NSW Premier's Literary Awards and was an Honour Book in the 2002 CBCA awards

In 2007 Shaun's brilliant wordless book, The Arrival won The NSW Premier's Book of the Year and the Community Relations Commission Award, the 2007 CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award and achieved a Special Mention in the prestigious Bologna Ragazzi Award.

Shaun's honours include the International Illustrators of the Future Contest (1992, the Spectrum Gold and Silver Awards, the Aurealis and Ditmar Awards for Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the 2001 World Fantasy Award as Best Artist.

Reviews

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 Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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 Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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