Welcome to the suburbs of Australia as seen through the eyes of author Shaun Tan. This collection of fifteen stories is creatively written and illustrated. A comment on the last page mentions that the book was created with the assistance of "the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body."
Not only are readers presented with tales inspired by humor and often bizarre events, but they are also treated to unique, eye-catching artwork with each story. One story, titled "Stick Figures," asks readers to imagine twig-like creatures that roam the neighborhoods. Their stick bodies and sod heads are magical and mysterious.
"Eric" is a foreign exchange student like no other you can imagine. His view of our world and the things he takes from it will make readers look more closely at the little things in their everyday lives.
"Distant Rain" is created on bits and scraps of paper. It presents the idea that all the snippets, phrases, and sound bytes people encounter daily might all blend together in a massive ball like bits and pieces of poetry. "A vast accumulation of papery bits that ultimately takes to the air, levitating by the sheer force of so much unspoken emotion" will have readers appreciating the written and spoken word on a whole new level.
My favorite of the stories is "Alert but Not Alarmed." Here readers are asked to visualize a neighborhood where every backyard includes a huge "intercontinental ballistic missile." Placed there by the government, these missiles are at the ready to protect the neighborhoods from harm. As the years go by and the missiles remain unfired, people begin to develop their own unique ways to utilize each missile. Their protection changes from objects of deadly force and destruction to objects of art and usefulness.
Author Shaun Tan provides entertainment and a good deal of food for thought in TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA. It is an excellent source of creative writing ideas and genre variety to be used with students of just about any age.
Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"