Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tales from Outer Suburbia

By Shaun Tan

FICTION - ages 12 and up

I've got to admit, I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book at first glance. A collection of 15 short stories? Short stories are not my cup of tea because they are, well, short, and it seems like nothing gets resolved at the end. Well, I am glad I gave this book a chance because it is stunning! First, let's talk about the artwork. Absolutely lovely! It ranges from full-page black and white or color illustrations to smaller illustrations spackled onto the pages. My favorite one accompanies the story "Distant Rain," which is about a poem that someone writes, but never lets anyone see. It is full of pieces of handwritten paper that have been ripped up, but are now pieced together to form the words of the story. Each illustration is full of details which capture the eye, forcing it to look at every bit. Tan uses the illustrations as a piece of storytelling, enhancing each short story and providing clues and context to what you are reading. Sometimes the stories are a little weird and hard to understand, but they fit into this strange land of Outer Suburbia he has created for the reader. What is wonderful about the stories is they are very open-ended, forcing the reader to ask questions and resolve it in their own way; it also begs a second, even third reading. I wouldn't recommend this for younger children, because I don't think they will understand the stories or the illustrations, and they may think some are a little "dark." It's great for tweens and teens, and is a perfect choice for reluctant readers.

That's Papa's Way

By Kate Banks; illustrated by Lauren Castillo


This is a beautiful story of a father and his young daughter as they head out for a day of fishing. The day begins with searching the woods for earthworms. Papa picks them up with his fingers - "that's his way" - and his daughter uses a shovel to scoop them up - "that's my way." As the story progresses, each one has their own way of doing things, like rowing and catching fish. Papa is patient and reassuring, and you can see the joy on the young girl's face when she finally catches a fish. The story ends with Papa and daughter on the porch swing, giving each other a hug because "that's his way...and...that's my way, too." The illustrations have a softness to them, which enhances the tenderness of the story. An absolutely wonderful book for sharing one-on-one with your father or grandpa and just in time for Father's Day too!

Boo Hoo Bird

By Jeremy Tankard


Poor Bird was playing catch with Raccoon and got bonked on the head with the ball. OUCH! Poor Raccoon tried kissing his head, but that didn't help. It still hurt! Rabbit tried a hug, Beaver tried a cookie, Sheep tried a game of hide and seek, and Fox tried a Band-Aid, but nothing made Bird's Boo Boo feel better, and he still cried. Pretty soon, all of Bird's friends began crying because nothing was making their friend better. After that, Bird realized his bonked head didn't really hurt anymore and he was all better now. His friends decide to play catch again...I bet you can guess what happens...BONK! The animals are illustrated with a bold outline and in very bright, primary colors, which make them jump off the page. This is an adorable book and perfect for reassuring a little someone who has a boo-boo that it will feel better soon.

Duck! Rabbit!

By Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld


Sometimes, it's all about how you look at things, and in the case of this book, that is especially true! This book uses a visual puzzle and one person says, "Hey, look! A duck!" To which the other person replies, "That's not a duck. That's a rabbit!" And the debate is on! The bill of the duck can also be seen as the flapping long ears of a rabbit. The illustrations use a very bold black line to outline the animal, which makes it easy for children to really look at the puzzle and see both animals. We get to see them eat, hide away, and hop/fly throughout the book, which makes it great for children to see the duck....I mean, rabbit! This is a wonderful book to share and a great way to get a new "perspective" on things!