I’ve been scaring, confounding, disgusting and delighting my 4th and 5th graders (and some older kids, even high schoolers) with the short short stories (we timed them — the way I read, many of them are more than half-a-minute long but seldom more than 2.5 minutes long) crammed into this slim volume for several weeks now. It’s not Halloween Season, but we all still welcome a spine-chilling experience in the Library’s Reading Room. We love M.T. Anderson’s EWWWWWW-inducing “An Easy Gig” where an innocent baby-sitting job turned menacingly tragic and we collectively are repulsed by Dean Lorey’s “Hank” where a beloved pet turns out to be.. um… not so endearing at all. Sarah Weeks isn’t all that sweet penning “One of a Kind” and Jack Gantos’ half-page “Up to My Elbow” makes us think twice and come to the “OMG” revelation on our own. With 72 stories in words and pictures, this proves to be the “best buy” of the school year for my library.
My students and I owe so many hours (minutes?) of reading and sharing pleasure to this cleverly conceived and brilliantly executed volume and HarperCollins and Susan Rich for putting the book together.
by Shaun Tan
This book reminds of a third grade project that my daughter did: to write a short story that accompanies one picture from Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. In fact, on Van Allsburg’s site, there is an entire section dedicated to stories from “readers” of the book inspired by the images in the book.
Outer Suburbia has that same absurdity, the same eeriness and outlandish qualities that constantly surprise and delight the reader, even when we feel slightly uncomfortable with what we read and see. It is at times unsettling and other times deeply moving.
I am not sure that this is a book just for children or teens. It seems to me that it is very much a book made to just express the artist’s imagination and to satisfy his own storytelling needs — which, ultimately, benefits the readers who would appreciate this kind of short vignettes. My favorite stories/images are: Eric, No Other Country, Alert But Not Alarmed, Make Your Own Pet, and strangely my top choice: The Nameless Holiday.
The entire book design is so amazing as well. I remember the sense of thrill and awe when I first discovered the Griffin and Sabine trilogy by Nick Bantock. This one comes close.
Author: Neil Gaiman
Reading Level: HS/Adult
Publisher: William Morrow
Edition: Hardcover, 2006
This book is such a treasure — from the cover design to the very interesting, informative introduction, to each of the 30+ stories and poems. It is odd to think of this book with such fondness and deep, comforting satisfaction when most of the stories are unsettling, dark, often with unrestrained gore and tragic situations. I wanted to write my reaction to each of the story… but simply didn’t have time. Here are some of my favorite pieces. The short summary is just so I won’t forget what the stories are about…
October in the Chair
(the little boy running away, meeting a little ghost boy…)
Forbidden Brides of the Facelss Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire
(meta-fiction of a young writer, living in a world of fantasy and trying to write his own “realistic fiction”)
(a “zombie” like traveler, assuming another’s identity…)
(very short and philosophical piece of demons in hell)
(tricking and being tricked — do not lightly give away your heart — pinning it on the door, with blood dripping..)
The Problem of Susan
(what happens to Susan after the Last Battle from the Narnia books…)
(instructions to one who finds herself trapped inside a fairy tell)
My Life (poem)
(tall-tale goth and funny)
Feeders and Eaters
(a really creepy cannibal story)
(a possible story from the world of the movie Matrix)
The Day the Saucers Came (poem)
(humorous accumulative love letter)
(what happens when you have eaten all the rare and precious foodstuff – and not so-foodstuff – in the world)
Author: Bruce Brooks
Reading Level: 6th and up
I definitely liked the character very much and enjoyed a few stories tremendously: especially the first story when she was 7 and the story about her first romance. However, it does not quite feel that all the stories are connected, and I can’t quite figure out how each of them builds on the previous version of Dolores. I think that is the intention — to show how she becomes the Dolores of the next stage. But, it might be just me as a reader who failed to see the connection between one set of characteristics to the next. It also seems very unrealistic, fairy-tale like almost — although I do know young women who remain true to their inner-selves and are accepted and even admired for their fierce loyalty to their own hearts. So, maybe it is not quite a fairy-tale!
Fast Food Nation
by Eric Schlosser (Read by Rick Adamson)
nonfiction, Adult, audio book
Whether the writing is too bland or the reader too inappropriately dramatic, I couldn’t tell. But, this very famous and popular title of the last couple of years only delivered information… long passages of it devoted to documenting the people involved in the fast food industry… without satisfying my literary “appetite.” It also has a pretty strong and unhidden agenda that feels a bit heavy handed. I am still happy that I read/listened to it and that I was “informed.” Beyond that, there is not much more to say about it.
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
by David Sedaris
humorous, nonfiction, memoir, Adult, audio book
Another audio book that is absolutely fantastic to listen to. Read by the author/public speaker with his signature nasal voice that is both sarcastic and completely sincere — incredibly cynical and yet touchingly innocent. The short autobiographical episodes are entertaining, enlightening, and memorable. Absolutely loved it!
by Khaled Hosseini
realistic fiction, Adult, audio book
I listened to this brutal and brutally honest and beautiful book on my iPod, folding laundry or washing dishes… on the subway or falling asleep at night… It is read by the author and his accent and pronunciation of the Afghan words made the experience rich with layers. It was an unforgettable “event,” listening to it.