graphic novel

Module 13: Tales from Outer Suburbia

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Shaun Tan explores many of the themes and issues present in modern day suburbia through a collection of comic, illustrated stories and sketches.  The stories are presented through a satirical lens and offer the the reader a sophisticated but humorous examination of suburban lifestyle. 

APA Reference:

Taun, S. (2008).  Tales from outer suburbia.  New York, NY:  Arthur A. Levine Books.

Professional Review:


TAN, Shaun.
Tales from Outer Suburbia.
illus. by author. 96p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks.
2009. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-545-05587-1.
LC number unavailable.
Gr 4 Up– Intriguing, wacky, or downright surreal, these dynamic illustrated vignettes by a master artist show unequivocally that there is no such thing as an “ordinary” suburban community. Tan works his magic with a few well-chosen words and a vibrant and expansive artistic vision, inviting readers to observe and explore familiar landscapes and look for untold stories beyond the obvious. BOOK

Tales from outer suburbia [Review of the book Tales from outer suburbia]. (2009). School Library Journal5540.


Unlike his award-winning The Arrival, which focuses on a singular plot and cast of characters, Tales uses a series of short vignettes, some not even prose, to explore fantastical stories of stick people, whales beached in backyards, and even a “how-to” grow your perfect pet. Even taking the graphics out of consideration, the text alone in this work would not warrant the label “novel.” But, because it has illustrations, we are quick to place it in the graphic novel genre.

Readers who enjoy illustrated texts that invite deeper exploration in the graphics and images will enjoy this book.  The quirky alien neighbors and random how-toinfluences provide some laugh-out-loud moments as well as moments for further consideration where you may even stop to wonder if Tan is sneaking in a social commentary of some sort in between his more light-heared sic-fi moments.  

Library Uses:
This title is an excellent discussion starter for graphic novels as a genre.  Invite students to explore how this book is organized, the role of the graphics and the text, the multiple story lines and modes of writing, and them invite them to compare this to more linear-styled graphic novels such as The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick or any number of more traditional graphic novels.