Christine Jensen's Reviews > Tales from Outer Suburbia

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
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's review
Feb 15, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: ya-fantasy-sci-fi
Read in February, 2010

Approximate Interest Level/Reading Level: Junior High/High School

Format: Combination Chapter/Picture Book

Awards: Australian Children's Book of the Year Awards (2009), ALA Notable Books for Children (2010), ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2010), New York Times Best Illustrated (2009), Outstanding International Book List (2010)

It is very difficult to find the right words to describe this book. In a nut shell, it is a collection of short stories and illustrations that are strange, humorous, ominous, extraordinary, bizarre, fantastical, disturbing, intense, eerie, strange, odd, puzzling, sorrowful, clever, and a WHOLE LOT more. While I was reading it, it reminded me of my attempts to read Shakespeare in high school. I knew I was touching upon a masterpiece, but I was never really quite sure what it was actually about. In an attempt to enlighten myself, I went to the author’s website (, which offered, “The real subject of each story is how ordinary people react to these incidents, and how their significance is discovered, ignored or simply misunderstood.” Ironically, this statement pretty much summed up my entire experience with the book... that and "WHOA!"
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Your review of this book made me laugh, but I also think I understand what you were saying about reading Shakespeare in high school. I am definitely intrigued! I will have to read this one.

message 2: by MissDziura (new)

MissDziura I have seen this book and wondered about it. You seemed give an honest view of it...I agree that we sometimes hear about a book and it is supposed to be SO good yet when it comes time to read it, we can feel stupid because we just "don't get it." I will have to give this one a try, but I feel as if I will be in the same boat as you!

Erin Ramai Christine,

I was intrigued by your review. I'm on page 56. I just finished reading "grandpa's story". You wanted to know what I thought about that story in particular, per our discussion in class. I think the point of the story is that getting married is like a journey. And that in order to have a successful marriage, you have to overcome obstacles together, to avoid blaming one another for mistakes along the way, and to help one another and forgive even when you're extremely exhausted and sometimes want to give up. Shaun Tan's comment on the page you linked to,“The real subject of each story is how ordinary people react to these incidents, and how their significance is discovered, ignored or simply misunderstood.”, makes sense to me from what I've read so far. I'm not sure that the grandchildren really understand the significance of the events that happened to their grandparents because they've never been married. They don't know what it takes to be in that type of dedicated relationship and how at every turn there are things that challenge you along the way. That's why I think the grandfather says, "It's hard to explain the terrible things that happened out there. In fact, the more I tell you, the less you will actually understand. Some things in life are like that. You have to find out for yourself..."

Don't know if that was helpful or not.

Christine Jensen I love your interpretation! It's very insightful and enlightening, especially how you connected Tan's comment to the characters in the story. Tan's writing style is so deeply symbolic and profound! Thanks for sharing that!!!

Q_Barb I just finished this. I started reading your review first, but then stopped, because after I read the book jacket, I thought this might be too weird. But I really liked the symbolism and the originality and the heads up to us to rethink our existence, relationships, etc. Tan is really brilliant. I can't even imagine all the great classroom discussions that could occur in the upper grades. Anyway, I wrote a review,too, if you are interested.

Madonnasharma Okay, I am still absorbing what I think of THE ARRIVAL, and after reading Christine's, Erin's & Barb's comments I am thinking about trying this Tan book. Sounds like I am in for a real out of the ordinary experience!

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