Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

Tales from Outer Suburbia coverThe first story in Tales from Outer Suburbia is one page long. Two, if you count the illustration. It tells about a water buffalo who used to live in a vacant lot near the narrator’s home. If someone asked the water buffalo a question, he would point in the direction of the answer. Some followed the buffalo’s direction, and were always pleased with what they found, but most quickly talked themselves out of the attempt, noting that the buffalo couldn’t tell them where to go, or how far, or what they’d find. Eventually, people stopped asking altogether, and then the buffalo himself left. The end.

None of the other works in the collection are quite this short, but most have a similar feel. Rather than telling stories, per se, with a problem, climax and resolution or even, most of the time, with memorable individual characters, each creates a reality, drawing on the familiar and the bizarre to hint at possibilities–perhaps truths–that the reader is left to sort out and judge on his or her own. Many of the stories challenge the reader, both in form and content, making Tales from Outer Suburbia an excellent introduction to picture books intended for older readers.

Read the Guardian review, or one from Graphic Novel Reporter.

See what the author has to say about his book (and get a sneak peek at some of the illustrations!)

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