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Tales from Outer Suburbia

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  9,227 ratings  ·  1,447 reviews
Breathtakingly illustrated and hauntingly written, Tales from Outer Suburbia is by turns hilarious and poignant, perceptive and goofy. Through a series of captivating and sophisticated illustrated stories, Tan explores the precious strangeness of our existence. He gives us a portrait of modern suburban existence filtered through a wickedly Monty Pythonesque lens. Whether i ...more
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published October 28th 2008 by McClelland & Stewart (first published 2008)
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Average rating 4.32  · 
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Ahmad Sharabiani
Tales From Outer Suburbia, Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan explores the precious strangeness of our existence. A collection of short stories about what might find in a surreal suburbia. Shaun Tan follows The Arrival with a collection of off-the-wall tales combined with his genius illustrations in a unique hybrid format that will build on our current success. An exchange student who's really an alien, a secret room that becomes the perfect place for a quick escape, a typical tale of grandfatherly exaggeratio
Mutasim Billah
What would it be like to have a children's story-book without fairies, princesses and princes, dungeons and dragons and the usual haberdasheries known as the ingredients of a children's book?

What if there was a book of stories set in the urban concrete jungle about everyday things that made normal life look magical? With beautiful illustrations, and wordplay, Shaun Tan did just that.

In Tales from Outer Suburbia the stories revolve around the tiny elements of our daily lives that we barely give a
Feb 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kiddiwinx, hey-shorty
is this really for children?? are children really this sad and dark and complicated emotionally?? i don't know, but i know that this book is outstanding. i think in a way it is harder to tell a story without words, like the arrival, but this shows that he is also an exceptional word-story-teller. and i am an exceptional word-hyphen-stringer.

come to my blog!
Have you ever wondered
what happens to all the poems people write?
The poems they never let anyone else read?

– Shaun Tan, “Distant rain”

Tales from Outer Suburbia is my kind of book: eccentric characters and their naturally weird stories accompanied by gorgeous, bizarre and even heartwarming illustrations. Tan blends the ordinary and the fantastic so majestically that I’m grateful I found this book during a search for something quite different – that’s how the best books are discovered. In this on
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This little book is a children's book for adults and it is a masterpiece! It consists of short stories written and illustrated by Shaun Tan who is a man with the wildest imagination ever.

My favourite of the stories tells the tale of two boys who argue over what happens when you reach the end of the street directory. Have you ever looked at that last page and wondered where the roads go next? The boys find out and there is a brilliant illustration of when they do.

I also loved Alert but not Alarme
“The house at number seventeen was only ever mentioned with lowered voices by the neighbours. They knew well the frequent sounds of shouting, slamming doors and crashing objects. But one sultry summer night, something else happened, something far more interesting: the appearance of a large marine animal on the front lawn.”

Where do you go from here in a story titled “Undertow”? Australian author/artist Shaun Tan has THE most interesting imagination. The stories are short and thought-provoking
This is a different story for Shaun Tan. He has a lot of words in this one. There are 15 short stories in this collection. Each, a little vignette. Shaun Tan sees the world differently and he has an artistic gift to share it with the world.

His stories always create a mood and encourage us to think about something a little differently or deeper. It is an amazing gift he has.

I love the little story of 'Eric'. The little figure reminds me of another story about Eric. I wonder if someone else took
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is truly spectacular...a collection of wildly imaginative very short stories accompanied by artwork that clearly demonstrates Shaun Tan's remarkable artistic range. He employs many different techniques and seems to use every available space inside the covers to spread his magic in a way that is fresh and fun. From the table of contents to the acknowledgements to the oodles of doodles on the inside covers, this is something to

Shelved as YA Graphic, this is better than that. It requir
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
On the face of it, I’m an inadequate reviewer for Shaun Tan. When you review a book for kids, what do you do? You take that little book, you pick apart its layers (if you’re lucky enough to find any), then you box up each and every one of those layers, a paragraph apiece, and voila! Instant review. Having a format to follow makes everything so simple. It’s as if you’re simply filling in the blanks on a Mad Libs sheet. "Pronoun has written an adjective book that will adverb verb you each and ever ...more
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Shaun Tan’s books are surreal, they are magic. Maybe his imagination starts where ours end!
I fell for his books after reading 'The Arrival.' That had only pictures telling you stories. But this one has pictures and some little stories, too.

There is a part in this book where he said that people often write down their untold feelings on paper and keep them hidden. Those can be in forms of poem or can be just some simple words. That part is so beautiful and true that almost made me cry!

Well, for
Oct 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I did enjoy reading this one. It just didn't blow my mind completely. The short stories had echoes of the Little Prince in how it goes about telling truths about our reality, but also being fun and friendly stories.

My favourite: The first one about the bison. I immediately read it as if the bison were God, and it was an interesting interpretation.

- Hello, beautiful illustrations. I love how sometimes the illustrations told parts of the story.
- The stories were clever and creative
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Extremely beautiful. Leaves you with a pretty clear feeling of why and how love, poetry and understanding are basically the same thing. (Although "to leave" cannot be less appropriate for a book that so much stays with you.)

Read it 10 times and 10 times fell in love.
Maggie Stiefvater
In the spirit of honesty, I have to admit that I was already biased to like this book because of my intense love for Shaun Tan's The Arrival. I was hoping this book, which unlike the wordless THE ARRIVAL pairs words and art, would live up to his previous work.

The answer is an unabashed yes. Inside TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA is a collection of related short stories that explore the absurdity, sadness, and joy of suburban life (in this case, Australian suburban life). As always, Tan's art is fille
Daina Chakma
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is so wonderfully illustrated by Shaun Tan himself! I am still drooling over the graphic works of Tales from Outer Suburbia.

However, I don't think this book belongs to Children genre. To be honest, I didn't get all the short stories from this book. Poor me! I wonder, since when my sense of understanding become so poor!! 😞
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am a big Shaun Tan fan. Blame it on The Arrival because once I experienced that illustration only story, I have been a goner. As I sipped my afternoon coffee, I perused the illustrations and read the fifteen pieces of writing found within. If I had to pick a favorite, I just couldn't because they're all quite amazing.

Goodreads review published 10/07/19
Johara Almogbel
Jul 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There's something about Shaun Tan's books that are so ethereal and otherworldly it's like sitting at the edge of a very high cliff and quietly watching the clouds as they move past your feet. Tales from Outer Suburbia is no different, and it's like I want to absorb the book into my skin.

That sounds weird. I can't explain it. I just want to.

So very obviously definitely recommended.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-books
First hand experience is always a defining factor for the things coming ahead. I was lucky to come across one of the right persons, Shaun Tan and his touching, almost perfect graphic novel The Arrival, which ignited my love for sequential arts & graphic novels.

I appreciate Shaun's alternative view of looking at regular everyday things in a twilight. His creative imaginations, the wilderness & rawness of his art combined with his taste for satire, bittersweet topics & intricate little details of
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
I love everything about this book from the illustrations to the quirky little stories. So much care has been taken to make the whole book fun, even the boring bits, check out the best ever contents page (image on my blog)

The illustrations reminded me of the far side cartoons, and they pair up perfectly with the short stories. There are so many gems here it is tough to pick a favourite, the story about the government keeping missiles in everybody's gardens and how people soon modify them to be u
Weird and wonderful. Loved every story, a few stand outs were Eric, No Other Country, and Make Your Own Pet, they were so strange and imaginative.
Aurora ✨
May 26, 2022 rated it did not like it
I liked two books by Shaun Tan in a row but this? ughh boring.
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Nov 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Out of all these surreal, sleepy tales "Stick Figures" was the most affecting to me. It appeals to the humane sensitivity of the reader, where in a single stroke of imaginative manipulation another layer of meaning is overlay-ed on what has surpassed. Good stories don't just pay off, they deepen the mystery. ...more
Ed Erwin
Dec 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, short-story
Could be called "Baby's First Kafka".
Ok, not really Kafka, but what else can I call these stories? Though my library puts it in the kids section, I think it just looks like a children's book. Teens and older will like it more.
Nandakishore Mridula
I read this because I loved Shaun Tan's The Arrival. This book is also equally weird, with the borderline between reality and fantasy blurred.

It's a collection of stories - though some may be called vignettes - set apparently in Australia, even though the locale is not explicitly mentioned. The mood is evident from the frontispiece - a man watering his lawn, juxtaposed with a lady in a floating canoe on the same location. The author seems to be telling us that there are no boundaries.

From the wa
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tales from Outer Suburbia is a graphic novel for young readers by award-winning Australian illustrator and author, Shaun Tan. There are fifteen tales, each illustrated with Tan’s wonderfully evocative artwork. The endpapers are filled with intricate drawings; the contents page is in the form of an envelope whose stamps list the tales, their denomination denoting the page number, whose addressee forms the dedication, whose sticker credits the publisher, all so clever! The second-last page is basi ...more
S. Wilson
Dec 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
To say that Shaun Tan has switched gears with his newest book is an understatement. Tales from Outer Suburbia differs from The Arrival as greatly as Maus differs from Mars Needs Moms. Tan has shifted from a silent and captivating depiction of the displacement and wonder felt by a family of immigrants, to a collection of endearing short stories about the bizarre happenings in a quaint little town. The good news is that neither the art nor storytelling has suffered from the transition. The art is ...more
Rashik Reza Nahiyen
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
The stories are as good as the illustrations.

The illustrations are as good as the stories.
Raghav Bhatia
Oct 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Soul fuel.
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 6-stars
This will be a book I will fondly come back to again and again. This will be a book I will gladly re-read with my children. This is a beautiful collection of little stories and illustrations, they compliment each other. I instantly recognised the world of Outer Suburbia.

This book reminded me of long quiet afternoons. When our parents were away at work and we got back from school. This was the kind of world my brother and I inhabited in those hours.

Thanks to the author and the people who helped
Jack Stark
Oh gods, it’s frustrating so. Everything about Tan’s work should be something I fall in love with, and yet, I can’t. And I don’t know what it is. I appreciate the message of his stories, and I think his art is beautiful. It’s all dreamlike and surreal, and full of magical realism. Those are all things that I normally adore and seek out! So why can’t I connect with his work? I can’t find an emotional hook to them. I can’t relate to the characters and themes. I dunno. People are weird. I am people ...more
Ananya Rubayat
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was beautiful, I wish I had pages to smell instead of reading the words off a screen :)
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Book Review 1 1 20 Aug 03, 2014 03:40PM  

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Shaun Tan (born 1974) is the illustrator and author of award-winning children's books. After freelancing for some years from a studio at Mt. Lawley, Tan relocated to Melbourne, Victoria in 2007. Tan was the Illustrator in Residence at the University of Melbourne's Department of Language Literacy and Arts Education for two weeks through an annual Fellowship offered by the May Gibbs Children’s Liter ...more

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“Have you ever wondered
What happens to all the
poems people write?
The poems they never
let anyone else read?
Perhaps they are
Too private and personal

Perhaps they are just not good enough.

Perhaps the prospect
of such a heartfelt
expression being seen as
shallow silly
pretentious saccharine
unoriginal sentimental
trite boring
overwrought obscure stupid
simply embarrassing

is enough to give any aspiring
poet good reason to
hide their work from
public view.


Naturally many poems are IMMEDIATELY DESTROYED.
Burnt shredded flushed away
Occasionally they are folded
Into little squares
And wedged under the corner of
An unstable piece of furniture
(So actually quite useful)

Others are
hidden behind
a loose brick
or drainpipe
sealed into
the back of an
old alarm clock
put between the pages of
that is unlikely
to ever be opened.

someone might find them one day,
The truth is that unread poetry
Will almost always be just that.
to join a vast invisible river
of waste that flows out of suburbia.

Almost always.

On rare occasions,
Some especially insistent
pieces of writing will escape
into a backyard
or a laneway
be blown along
a roadside embankment
and finally come
to rest in a
shopping center
parking lot

as so many
things do

It is here that
something quite
takes place

two or more pieces of poetry
drift toward each other
through a strange
force of attraction
to science
and ever so slowly
cling together
to form a tiny,
shapeless ball.

Left undisturbed,
this ball gradually
becomes larger and rounder as other
free verses
confessions secrets
stray musings wishes and unsent
love letters
attach themselves
one by one.

Such a ball creeps
through the streets
Like a tumbleweed
for months even years

If it comes out only at night it has a good
Chance of surviving traffic and children
and through a
slow rolling motion
(its number one predator)

At a certain size, it instinctively
shelters from bad weather, unnoticed
but otherwise roams the streets
for scraps
of forgotten
thought and feeling.

time and luck
the poetry ball becomes
A vast accumulation of papery bits
That ultimately takes to the air, levitating by
The sheer force of so much unspoken emotion.
It floats gently
above suburban rooftops
when everybody is asleep
inspiring lonely dogs
to bark in the middle
of the night.

a big ball of paper
no matter how large and
buoyant, is still a fragile thing.

Sooner or
it will be surprised by
a sudden
gust of wind
Beaten by
driving rain
in a matter
of minutes
a billion

One morning
everyone will wake up
to find a pulpy mess
covering front lawns
clogging up gutters
and plastering car

Traffic will be delayed
children delighted
adults baffled
unable to figure out
where it all came from

Stranger still
Will be the
Discovery that
Every lump of
Wet paper
Contains various
faded words pressed into accidental

Barely visible
but undeniably present
To each reader
they will whisper
something different
something joyful
something sad
truthful absurd
hilarious profound and perfect
No one will be able to explain the
Strange feeling of weightlessness
or the private smile
that remains
Long after the street sweepers
have come and gone.”
“It's funny how these days, when every household has its own inter-continental ballistic missile, you hardly even think about them. . . . A lot of us, though, have started painting the missiles different colors, even decorating them with our own designs, like butterflies or stenciled flowers. They take up so much space in the backyard, they might as well look nice, and the government leaflets don't say that you have to use the paint they supply.” 18 likes
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