Well friends, we have reached the finish line. It’s Day 30 of our month-long video marathon to Keep Toronto Reading, and after kicking off the whole shebang, I thought I’d finish what I started. No one had done a children’s book yet (if we don’t count Lindsey Reeder’s reco for a YA novel), so being a big fan of kidlit, I thought I’d give it a shot. It was really a no-brainer, and I decided to record a recommendation I’ve made countless times: Shaun Tan’s Tales from Outer Suburbia:
Now that we’ve take our last KTR bow, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who put up with my pestering and contributed to making another one of my half-baked schemes a great success. I’d also like to give a huge shout-out to Ab at the Toronto Public Library, who supported our effort from day one.
We had a total of 32 videos submitted from 25 different publishing professionals, authors, and civilian book lovers alike, recommending a total of 35 books. Now it’s up to you all to go out in read them! Take them out from your local library branch (the TPL for our targeted Torontonians), or buy them at your local indie bookseller (find one with Indie Bound or the Canadian Booksellers Association), or, if you’re looking to buy a bundle (which I’m thinking is going to happen to me), online retailers are a good option. Since I’ve been linking through to Amazon.ca all along, I also built a handy little bookstore that has all the titles and who recommended them. You can shop it here.
As a final note, be sure to drop by on Monday for a big KIRBC announcement (not another campaign this time, or at least not yet), but it’s still exciting. Thanks for coming by, now go get reading!
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I love this book. The smell of its pages transports me back to my childhood. Though it’s a children’s book, it’s also reminiscent of the graphic novel (although technically it would be a graphic short story collection) in which the pictures drive the story as much as the text.
Tales from Outer Suburbia is a collection of stories that whimsically tap into the imaginative potential of suburbia – often considered a sort of sterile, mass-produced cultural wasteland (a judgment not far from the truth, says this former suburbanite). Yet Tales from Outer Suburbia challenges this stereotype, transforming suburbia into a portal to another fantastical world (literally in one story, in which a family discovers they have a secret inner courtyard in their home). Suburbia is no longer drab and dull, but rather a departure point for any number of possible adventures.
Each of these stories is wonderful, though my favourites are likely “eric”, in which a family takes in an “exchange student” who is only a few inches high and lives in a teacup in their cupboard, “distant rain” which speculates on what happens to all the poems people write, and “grandpa’s story”, in which a grandfather relates the ritual adventure in search of wedding rings that every couple must take before they are married. These don’t look remotely like parables although there are subtle lessons for both children and adults – to be kind to strange neighbours, to respect those who are different, that marriage is road fraught with peril (but endurable), that love is ubiquitous and cycles through the world like the rain.
The text and images are perfectly matched – each with the perfect amount of imagination, whimsy and just a shade of darkness. The images are what would initially appeal to parents as well as children. Tan has a remarkable attention to detail and every inch of the book is used effectively – from the postage stamp-themed table of contents (perhaps making the book a missive to the non-suburban world), to designing the credits as an old-fashioned library check out card, to the end papers crammed with minature sketches of different elements of the book and more.
Read it and share it with whomever you can. City-dwellers, this may give you a little more respect for the satellite territories, and Suburbanites, it may give you a little more respect for your homeland, or at the very least, give you a great excuse to go to the mall.
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I had high expectations for this book as it got a fair amount of hype. Furthermore, a book about the magic of books struck a chord with my little bibliophilic heart. I’m not sure if my expectations were too high or if the book wasn’t up to snuff, but I found myself a little disappointed.
Inkheart is the story of a young girl named Maggie who discovers that her father, Mo, can actually read characters right out of books – a magical gift that has had dire consequences. It turns out many years earlier Mo read out some heartless villains from a book called Inkheart, and now those very same villains have captured them. They have other sometimes sidekicks such as Dustfinger, the fire-eater, and Elinor a rather corpulent and cantankerous bibliophile. The plotting is fairly adept (though I think there’s a little more back and forth than is necessary) and most of the characters are fairly entertaining, though personally I never found myself really connecting with Maggie – though maybe if I had read this as a 8 year old I would have.
Sadly the most enjoyable aspects of this book are the literary epigraphs for each chapter and the frequent references to classic texts – everything from Treasure Island to the Princess Bride. Yet for me it was these references that reminded me of the magic of books, while Inkheart, despite its readability failed to light the same spark.
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