An exchange student who’s really an alien, a secret room that becomes the perfect place for a quick escape, a typical tale of grandfatherly exaggeration that is actually even more bizarre than he says…
These are the odd, magical details of everyday suburban life that might forever goo unnoticed were they not finally brought to light by Shaun Tan, author and illustrator of award-winning bestseller The Arrival
Outer Suburbia. it’s closer than you think.
After reading the magnificent The Arrival, I hungered for more of Tan’s work, this was the only one available in the comic book shop Page 45, at the time and I couldn’t be happier about that now.
My initial disappointment at the mere 96 pages – for I liked quantity with quality in my youthful years – soon changed to outright curiosity as I flicked through to the pencil drawings on the inside cover, a skeleton playing the banjo and singing the blues, an astronaut interviewing a French dog and other sorts of other outlandish things which I later noted are not repeated on the back pages which features more refreshingly strange images.
Little touches like that reassured me that this wouldn’t be just another brief anthology but something special, a group of short stories tinged with whimsy and mystery and I wasn’t wrong. Inside I discovered clever and lighthearted stories, that have at their core messages, some obvious a few hidden a little deeper but always as thought-provoking as you allow them to be.
Some of my favourite stories include a look at what happens to the lost poems we write on scraps of paper, an expedition to see what lies beyond the edge of a street map, an ‘invasion’ of enigmatic stick figures in the suburbs and a typical and logical reaction of the populace to the threat of war.
The mixture of terrific and diverse artwork side by side with strong but not too wordy prose is great to fuel the imaginations of children – older children to be precise-ish – and also to add a bit of colour and contented wonder to life jaded adult readers. Whist there is plenty of a fancifulness nature in the storytelling and enough deeper messages to keep the analytical happy as well..
the art work is varied and complements the text perfectly, this assortment acts in tandem to strongly bring about the unique feel of each of the individual stories, the book delights in constantly bringing you something with a different and unexpected tone yet consistently thoughtful, it makes it a delight to read.
The feeling of the quirky from everyday life. makes one sensitive to the idea that all that humdrum of daily tasks could be hiding anything much richer that we just don’t see, Tan encourages us to use our imaginations to see something more than there is. He takes us on a rich kaleidoscopic journey into the gently surreal – oft haunting and is given a stronger impact by the way the humans react to events and situations they find themselves experiencing but that is something I urge you to discover for yourselves….