RogerBW's Blog

Tales from Outer Suburbia, Shaun Tan 14 April 2021

2008 children's fantasy, illustrated short stories loosely based on suburban life.

The framing is strictly the boring life of endless suburbia in a country too hot for grass, where they insist on growing grass anyway. (Tan is Australian.) The stories often seem to start conventionally: we had a foreign exchange student come to stay. I had an argument with my brother about what was just beyond the last page of the city map. But the illustrations make it clear that things have already gone a bit sideways, and they rapidly become more so.

There's some moralising, but it's gentle, and there's nothing like a bad person here; everyone's redeemable, perhaps. Not a whole lot actually happens… or maybe it has already happened. There's a Twilight Zone-ish sense that the universe has mechanisms that we don't and won't understand, but mostly they work out right.

Not at all my usual fare, but if I read one children's book this decade I'll be happy for it to have been this one.

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