If you haven’t checked out The Arrival,
then you are missing out. It is a beautiful wordless book by Shaun Tan
about the arrival of an immigrant man to a bizarre new world. Well,
Shaun Tan has created another masterpiece called Tales from Outer Suburbia
that publishes in February 2009. This collection of (sub)urban legends
for ages 12 and up is a random walk through a strange and fantastical
world. Tan’s idiosyncratic drawings take mundane suburban life and give
it an unconventional makeover. There are all kinds of stories:
some of them with clearly defined outcomes, and others that, in my
opinion, are meant to be enjoyed for what they are, with no requisite
There is the story of Eric, for example, an unusual foreign exchange
student. Eric had a tendency to sleep and study in the kitchen pantry.
He kept to himself, and rarely had questions for his hosts. When he did
ask something, it would be about an object or subject that his hosts
took for granted. There is a picture of Eric looking curiously at the
underside of a postage stamp, and pointing out the serial number on an
electrical plug. His hosts would dismiss his strange demeanor as being
a “cultural thing.” Then, one day, Eric left with just a wave and a
good-bye. His hosts didn’t even know that he was leaving for good. He
did leave them something though . . .
Then there’s a story about a discontented family who always
complained about their lives, until they found a secret inner courtyard
in their house! The family started having picnics in their inner
courtyard, and they enjoyed the privacy and the special secret that
only their family knew about . . . or so they thought.
Another great story is about a place where every household has their
own missile. They were just sitting there, in the backyard, waiting for
the time when the government may need to use them. Eventually they
became so commonplace that people started decorating their missiles.
Soon everyone was painting their missile, or using it to grow plants,
or store things.
The artwork in this book is stunning. Tan’s style is such an
eclectic mix of the real and surreal. Some illustrations are with
color, some without, and some juxtapose vibrant hues against a shaded
backdrop. The illustration about the inner courtyard looks like a
painting that you might see at the Metropolitan Museum of Art! Shaun
Tan has let his imagination run wild once again, and I love it! I hope
you’ll love this book as much as I do. What’s the story that your
imagination would tell about your neighborhood?
— Nick, STACKS Staffer