I loved Shaun Tan's The Arrival. I had borrowed it so often from our library that, eventually, I had to purchase a copy of my own. So when Tales from Outer Suburbia landed in our library, I eagerly picked it up. I was not disappointed.
Tan delivers fifteen quirky short stories about a water buffalo who gives sage if cryptic advice, a nut-sized foreign exchange student, a reverse Christmas, inter-continental missiles in everyone's backyard, instructions on how to make your own pet, and what really happens when you reach the edge of the map in outer suburbia --- among other topics. These slightly disturbing yet heartwarming tales remind me of Paul Fleischman's Weslandia (illustrated by Kevin Hawkes), where a boy grows a new civilization in his backyard. They bend the notion of the sameness that permeates suburbia, uncover some of the world that existed before roads were bulldozed in and paved over, and make us rethink what "normal" means.
Being the accomplished picture book artist that he is, Tan's illustrations carry the stories as much as the words. Not only do they set the tone and mood, they also tell us things the text does not. In a word, they are wonderful.
It looks like I may be in for another purchase.