Sunday, November 08, 2009

Shaun Tan

The NY Times has their special Children's Books section in the book review today! And one of the books they review is a book I love: Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan. I just searched my blog and realized that I never mentioned it when I read it (a serious memory lapse on my part). Personally, I wouldn't classify it as a children's book, though my girl critter did like it a lot (her favorite story was "Eric" about a wee creature who comes to a family as their foreign exchange student--it is full of whimsy and light).

My favorite story in Tales is called "Grandpa's Story." I'd love to get it in stand-alone booklet form to give to people on their wedding day or anniversary: in it a pair of newlyweds embark on a surreal journey that best exemplifies the potential challenges and joys of the marriage endeavor. It is sweet and sad and hopeful and beautiful all at once.

I think of Tales as illustrated stories for everyone. Tan's previous book, The Arrival was a wordless moving meditation on immigration and cultural adaptation. Sure, kids who can't read could understand it, but that doesn't mean that it was intended for the pre-literate. In Tan's work images are just as communicative as words, and carry a poignancy and impress the mind in a distinct and powerful way. (I have always been biased towards words; my sister is very visually inclined). I find Tales particularly lovely because it contains both!

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