Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Tales From Outer Suburbia

Tales From Outer Suburbia

Spring 2009 Fiction
Ages: 12 & Up
Author: Shaun Tan
Illustrator: Shaun Tan
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 0545055873
Hardcover Price: $19.99
What we have here is genius, pure and simple. Just when you thought that every genre had been discovered and the rules for inclusion or exclusion were comfortably set in stone, along comes this compendium of brief stories, color-infused sepia pictures, ephemeral scraps and wordless visual narratives that belongs to a world-and a genre-all its own. After the triumph of The Arrival which appeared on almost every "Best" list after it landed on U.S. shores in 2007 and which took Australian author / illustrator Tan almost 5 years to finish, you'd think he'd rest on his laurels. No way. In a recent interview, he describes his 7th book as "a collection of short illustrated stories set in a suburban environment; in each case something strange happens, and we see how people respond to these incidents in different ways." To pin it down any more than that would be a disservice to its very nature: elusive, surreal, familiar, tender, frightening, bizarre and exhilarating. Using prose and pictures, this does what poetry does: fires the imagination, defies description and successfully escapes interpretation.

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a picture book. Its audience is sophisticated middle school students at the very least-and probably more appropriate to high school and adult readers-because of it complexity and not because of any questionable content.

Kristi Elle Jemtegaard   ©2009 Parents' Choice
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard is the Coordinator of Youth Services for the Arlington Public Library system. She has taught courses on children’s and young adult literature at the Catholic University of America and the University of Virginia. She has served on both the Newbery and Caldecott Award Committees of the American Library Association and has chaired the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee and the May Hill Arbuthnot Award Committee. She is a member and past president of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington DC and has chaired the Washington Post–Book Guild Nonfiction Award Committee. She is a founding member of Capitol Choices, an organization of professionals in the field of children’s literature in the greater Washington DC area. She regularly reviews children’s literature and audio productions for a variety of national publications.

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