And now for something completely different -- again. With his previous book, The Arrival, author/illustrator created something new: a wordless graphic novel dense with visual metaphor. Now, with TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA, he has created something else -- a collection of short, surrealist tales, as dependent on the illustrations as on the words to tell the stories. If you can image some of the stranger chapters in Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine or The Illustrated Man, illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, you begin to get the flavor of these brilliantly warped stories: something like The Mysteries of Harris Burdick marginally fleshed out.
Some of these stories have something to say, such as the tale of an America where everyone has a government missile placed in their backyards, which they eventually turn into planters and dog houses. Some are magical delights, such as the one about the enchanting gift left behind by an exchange student. And some are just ... peculiar. But all are fun, and will reward rereading, poring over the details in the illustrations, and long conversations about what they mean and what the author is up to. Clearly, they're not for everyone. But for a child with a taste for the bizarre, complex, and ambiguous, this is a very unusual treat.
From the Book:
If they are standing in the middle of the street, it's easy enough to drive around them, as you would a piece of card- board or a dead cat. Turning your sprinklers on will discourage them from hanging around the front of your house; loud music and smoke from barbecues will also keep them away. They are not a problem, just another part of the suburban landscape, their brittle legs moving as slowly as clouds. They have always been here, since before anyone remembers, since before the bush was cleared and all the houses were built. Adults pay them little attention. Young children sometimes dress them in old clothes and hats as if they were dolls or scarecrows, and are always scolded by parents, whose reasons are unclear. "Just don't," they say sternly.