“You thought you knew suburbia. Then you meet an exchange student from another world, discover a secret room that lets you escape to a place of perfect beauty, find a neighborhood where brightly painted missiles decorate every yard, and wait for a blind reindeer who demands a very special offering…”
What a fun and magical book Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan turned out to be. I wasn’t sure what to expect but this collection of 15 short stories is all about making the ordinary a little bit more magical. There are fantastical characters, strange occurrences and basically suburban life is turned into a place with much more excitement and happenings than you could have ever imagined.
Not only were the stories exciting but the artwork is really beautiful. Whether it’s a colorful picture that goes with a story or drawings that are more broody and dark they all complement each story so well. It really makes me wonder though whether the pictures came first or the stories, or maybe it’s a combination of both creative efforts.
To me that is actually the hard part of a graphic novel. I want to soak up the words but I also don’t want to miss out on any of the visual elements. I know I’ve mentioned that I rarely do re-readings but with graphic novels I do re-viewings I guess. I do like to go back and just look at the pictures to see the lines, the shadows, the little things that make a picture great.
Back to the stories in this collection though. One of my favorites was Eric, which is about foreign exchange student. Eric does things a bit differently, for example, he sleeps in a teacup in the pantry but he is polite and asks a lot of questions. The drawings show Eric focusing on a stamp, a bottlecap and other random things. One day Eric leaves and his host family is unsure if Eric enjoyed his stay but when they go to the pantry they will learn just a little bit more about Eric and a bit more perhaps about appreciating the little things.
Another story that I really liked was Distant Rain which asks what happens to all the poems people write. If you’ve ever written a poem or tried to write one, then you will really like this. It talks about poems that are burnt, shredded or flushed away but on rare occasions some words will escape. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens to those escaped words and verses.
I really loved this book and hope you’ll add it to your stacks.
Source: Library copy