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 moral lesson.
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