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.