Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Tales From Outer Suburbia

Tan, Shaun (Author/Illustrator)
McClelland & Stewart 2008. 96 pages
First published: 2008
ISBN: 9780771084027 (hardcover)
9781551996967 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Anthology

Text Elements:

characterization, layout, multimodal, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Anything can happen in outer suburbia: a water buffalo living in a vacant lot offers advice; stick figures hover, moving “as slowly as clouds.” The characters that people these vignettes, which range from 2-15 pages, are young, adventurous and insightful, even when those insights fall beyond the strict confines of reality. When a large marine mammal appears one morning on the front lawn of the house at number 17, a small boy pipes up: “It’s a dugong”—an endangered ocean herbivore—“family Dugongidae, genus dugong.” The plots often centre on the domestic quotidian—an exchange student comes to stay, a crazy man hangs out beneath the underpass—or offer a youthful view of adult lives and problems.

The texts are inextricable from the book’s elaborate illustrations, which include outlandish surreal scapes, as well as the use of stylized handwriting, pencil sketches and full-page images. “Grandpa’s Story,” for instance, consists of four pages of text and eleven pages of artwork; the “perilous times” of which the grandfather speaks, for instance, are demonstrated through a root-vegetable-looking monster holding grandma and grandpa’s car aloft. The joyful resolution of another story, “Eric,” is illustrated only, never narrated. The whimsical visuals extend to the book’s format as well: the table of contents is a page of postage stamps and the acknowledgements are presented as a library checkout card.

If we are the shadows of our imaginations, as Nabokov wrote, nowhere is that more vividly represented than in Tan’s illustrated short stories.

  •  

    Multimodal short stories use conventions of picture books and comics with panel arrangements and transitions. Model ways to make meaning of multimodal texts using “Eric” or “Make Your Own Pet” as think-aloud texts that focus on crafting choices.

  •  

    In small reading groups, discuss a selection of stories. Explore the big ideas presented in the texts and connect them to the title of the anthology, Tales From Outer Suburbia.

  •  The text production process can be used to transform one of the multimodal stories into a spoken or written short story or script. Share the new text with an audience of peers and adults in an anthology or storytelling event.
  •  

    Think of the two most important life lessons you have learned and, in a group of three or four, discuss how you learned them.

  •  

    Why does each story takes place in suburbia? Explain how the stories would (or would not) work if they took place in rural or inner-city environments?

  •  Each short story contains a valuable life lesson. Choose three of Tan’s stories and briefly explain the life lesson presented in each.
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Social Sciences
  • Visual Arts