Book Awards Challenge II Completed!


I did it! I completed Book Awards Challenge II! Well, I did complete it a while ago, but I felt like tracking the award winning books until the end of the challenge. So here is the official wrap-up post.

The rule is to read 10 award winners from August 1, 2008 through June 1, 2009. You must have at least FIVE different awards in your ten titles.

From my original list of books with 14 books, I read only 1 of them. That’s how good I am with list. But never mind that, I’ll just celebrate the ones I ended up reading!

1) A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah reviewed 25/09/08, rating 4.5/5
2008 Alex Award

2) Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi reviewed 12/10/08, rating 5/5
2004 Alex Award

3) Bone by Jeff Smith reviewed 25/11/08, rating 4/5
1995 Best Comic Book from the National Cartoonist Society, 2002 YALSA/American Library Association Book Choice, and more

4) Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami reviewed 23/01/09, rating 3/5
2006 World Fantasy Award

5) The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot reviewed 21/02/09, rating 4/5
1996 Eisner Award for best Graphic Album Reprint, 1999 Haxtur Award for Best Long Comic Strip

6) The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly reviewed 03/03/09, rating 4/5
2007 Alex Award

7) The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman reviewed 21/03/09, rating 5/5
1992 Pulitzer Prize Special Awards and Citations – Letters, 1992 Eisner Award Best Graphic Album: Reprint (Maus II), 1992 Harvey Award – Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work (Maus II)

8) Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham reviewed 26/03/09, rating 4.5/5
2007 Will Eisner Award for Best Anthology etc

9) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman reviewed 29/03/09, rating 4/5
2009 Newbery Medal

10) Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata reviewed 01/04/09, rating 3/5
1968 Nobel Prize for Literature (for the author)

11) The Color Purple by Alice Walker reviewed 04/04/09, rating 4.5/5
1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and National Book Award

12) Fables Vol 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham reviewed 12/04/09, rating 4/5
2003 Eisner Award for Best New Series and Best Serialized Story

13) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini reviewed 14/04/09, rating 4/5
2008 Richard&Judy Best Read of the Year

14) Ethel & Ernest by Raymond Briggs reviewed 05/05/09, rating 4/5
1999 The Illustrated Book of the Year from Galaxy British Book Awards

I read 14 books, representing many types of awards. Granted, 7 of them are graphic novels. I’m not sure if I could complete the challenge without graphic novels. They are definitely much faster to read.

Some of the awards are the less known ones and probably less prestigious (are they?), but I’m quite happy that there are books that represent Newberry, Nobel, Pulitzer, and National Book Award. Not a bad effort I think, especially considering that I counted shortlisted award books for my first Book Awards Challenge. This time there are only winners! :)

Favorite book of the challenge
Hands down, it has to be Persepolis. Graphic memoir is my new favorite genre! (if there’s such genre)

Least favorite books of the challenge
Well they were not horrible, but I was slightly disappointed by Kafka on the Shore and Snow Country.

I’m joining the next one! The post should be coming soon!

My (Not-So) Quick Summary of 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival (Part 3 – Last)

Continuing Part 1 and Part 2 of My (Not-So) Quick Summary of 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival… (I’m going to sprinkle more pictures to the first 2 parts now. So check them out again! I know, I should’ve done it before I published them. I’m backwards like that.)

International Voices (7pm-8:30pm)


Mohammed Hanif, Cees Nooteboom, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tash Aw, Philipp Meyer

Finally, the last event of the day, the one I’d been waiting for the most. Readings from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tash Aw, Mohammed Hanif, Cees Nooteboom and Philipp Meyer.

There was a big wooden empty chair in the room (which was also there at a couple of previous panels but I forgot to mention), to remind us of the writers who are not free to express themselves because of political or other intolerance. (No you can’t see the chair in the picture. It’s sturdy and big in the corner, not that happy funky looking empty red chair).

We started with Philipp Meyer. He read two parts of his new novel, American Rust. I’m sorry Phil, but I think your reading was terribly boring. I’m not sure about the novel, but if you’re going to have audio book, you better not read it yourself.

“It’s like he was reading someone else’s book,” hubby said. “He didn’t sound excited about it.”

I don’t know, probably the whole American thing doesn’t really capture me.

Next was Tash Aw, reading from his new novel, Map of Invisible World. It was better, but I don’t remember what exactly it was about anymore.

Third was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, reading from her new short stories book called The Thing Around Your Neck. Her perfect English surprised me a bit, but I guess you don’t expect anything less from a Yale graduate. Or perhaps Nigerians speak English?

The story was about a Nigerian girl who lives alone overseas and gets a visit from a fellow Nigerian who lives in the same building. How does he get to know she’s a Nigerian, she wonders. The guy asks her if she wants to pray along with him, for their country. So they pray, holding hands. But they guy won’t leave after that. She starts to get agitated.

Well it’s an excerpt. So that’s it.

Next on the line was Cees Nooteboom. He’s an old man, so I was expecting boring, sort of. Boy was I wrong! His piece was funny! It’s about an old man (I imagined someone like himself) sitting on an airplane who observes this one woman who reads. He wants to know what she reads, but for various reasons never get to. At many points I believe, we were gripping our seat anticipating to know the title of the book that the woman reads. Along the way he mused to himself about the woman, her breasts, her book, and so on. So adoringly funny.

Apparently it’s the beginning of Lost Paradise, his newest book that sets in Perth, Australia. It’s about two women. Something terrible to one of them then they travel to Australia.

Cees Nooteboom is a Dutch author. I was quite surprised too to find later that his book signing queue was the longest. A lot of people had his book Lost Paradise. Looks like an author that I’d never heard of but I could potentially like.

Last we had Mohammed Hanif, who read a part of A Case of Exploding Mangoes, a book that I wondered earlier if it was boring. Hearing Hanif, I don’t think it is! I think it sounded really interesting and funny! Hanif’s English was the most accented of all the speakers that I listened to at the Festival. This gives hope to me. That you don’t need to speak perfect English to write an English book (probably just write near perfect English), that you can win a literary prize with English as your second language (Tash proved that too though), and you can write a quality novel with no English degree (gosh how the English degree is intimidating).

After the reading, I queued up to the book signing. Only I didn’t bring books to sign. Couldn’t afford to buy new full priced books, what with unemployment and stuff, so I just acted like a groupie.


With Mohammed Hanif.


With Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Really, there’s a good chance for me to buy their books in the future, but not now. No. Money. But I’m writing about them here, so I guess I’m supporting them in a way.

SUNDAY, 24 MAY 2009

I wanted to go to a few of the events talking about the Blogosphere and Bloggers vs Journalists, but alas, the timing was bad. So we took our time checking out of the hotel, strolled along to Circular Quay, picked up the tickets to My Year Without Sex, then dropped by the Zine Fair (also part of the Festival).


Dropped by the Sydney Opera House before that (me on the right corner).

From the brochure:

A zine (an abbreviation of the word magazine; pronounced “zeen”) is most commonly a small circulation, non-commercial publication of original or appropriated texts and images. More broadly, the term encompasses any self-published work of minority interest.

A popular definition includes that circulation must be 5,000 or less and the intention of the publication is not primarily to raise a profit.

Zines are written in a variety of formats, from computer-printed text to comics to handwritten text. Print remains the most popular zine format, usually photo-copied with a small circulation. Topics covered are broad, including fanfiction, politics, art and design, ephemera, personal journals, social theory, single topic obsession, or sexual content far enough outside of the mainstream to be prohibitive of inclusion in more traditional media. The time and materials necessary to create a zine are seldom matched by revenues from sale of zines. Small circulation zines are often not explicitly copyrighted and there is a strong belief among many zine creators that the materials within should be freely distributed.

The concept definitely sounds interesting, but the room was so full and crowded that we didn’t spend much time in it. Browsing through, I saw a lot of hand-crafted cards and trinkets, self-published (mostly photography) books, and comics.

Went to watch the movie after that. My Year Without Sex is an Australian comedy movie, though I think there were more sad moments than the haha. It shows very ordinary suburban middle class Australian family with ordinary marriage and its problems. Nothing is sugar coated or dramatized.

The Rocks

Went around The Rocks for a bit before we went home. Do I look like Christmas?

What a long enjoyable weekend. I want more Writers’ Festival!

Friday Finds from 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival


What great books did you hear about / discover this past week?

I’m a Friday Finds virgin I am. The reason is, I rarely put down newly found books on a physical To-Be-Read list. I usually read a book after I stumble upon it MANY times, not just once. The last encounter is the one that pushes me from coveting to reading.

I have a Wishlist on Amazon where I put newly found books that I may want to read in the future, but they are mostly non-fictions, since I don’t stumble upon non-fictions many times. That one encounter could be the only encounter I have with that book, hence the list. But fictions– I never run out of good fictions and my mental list is huge, so I reckon keeping track of them does not give me much.

Having said that, I’m playing Friday Finds this week because I found quite a few books from Sydney Writers’ Festival that I went to last weekend. I’m sharing!

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, Winner of 2009 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. A search on my library catalogue resulted in 2 copies and 17 reserves. Geez.

A Child’s Book of True Crime by Chloe Hooper, shortlisted for 2002 Orange Prize. Well according to Amazon reviewers, her more recent book, Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee is better rated. But still, the title of the former sounds interesting to me.

Map of the Invisible World, the newest book by Tash Aw. A tale about 2 brothers that separated as orphans. One lives in Malaysia and one Indonesia.

Lost Paradise by Cees Nooteboom, a Dutch author whose reading I got a chance to listen to at the Festival. His reading was excellent! I saw many people holding this book to get his signature, and according to Wiki he has frequently been mentioned as a candidate to receive Nobel Prize in literature.

Nocturnes, Kazuo Ishiguro newest book. Hey, you can’t go wrong with Ishiguro, though I’m not so sure when I knew this book was a collection of short stories. I haven’t had much success with short stories in the past, but I’m definitely willing to try this one.

The Thing Around Your Neck, also a collection of short stories, latest book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Hey I can spell her name without looking anymore now). I just saw that Amazon will publish it on June 16? This book was definitely already available at the Festival.

War Child: A Child Soldier’s Story by Emmanuel Jal. I met Emmanuel at the Festival and think he and his efforts were amazing. I read A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah a while back and can never forget the story of the boy soldiers. Both Ishmael and Emmanuel are ex child soldiers, but I’m sure each of them has unique story (they’re from different country too– Ishmael from Sierra Leone, Emmanuel from Sudan). You can read one of them to know more. Or read both!

The Boat by Nam Le, has won 2008 Book of the Year Award from NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2009 and Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist Award. I love the cover! Blurb: A stunningly inventive, deeply moving fiction debut: stories that take us from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Tehran; from New York City to Iowa City; from a tiny fishing village in Australia to a foundering vessel in the South China Sea, in a masterful display of literary virtuosity and feeling.

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz has won People’s Choice Award for Fiction from NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2009. Blurb: “The fact is, the whole of Australia despises my father more than any other man, just as they adore my uncle more than any other man. I might as well set the story straight about both of them.” Meet the Deans. After a crippling injury which cut short a golden sporting career, Jasper Dean’s uncle became Australia’s most beloved murderer. After a lifetime of brilliantly impossible ideas and a brief stint as the country’s saviour, Jasper’s father became Australia’s most loathed philosopher. This is Jasper’s attempt to make sense of it all. Are they heroes or criminals? Crackpots or visionaries?

The Good Parents by Joan London has won NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2009 for Fiction. I love the Australian cover (check out second link) and the setting is in Melbourne, probably my favorite city in the world :). Blurb: Maya de Jong, an eighteen-year-old country girl from the West, comes to live in Melbourne and starts an affair with her boss, the enigmatic Maynard Flynn, whose wife is dying of cancer. When Maya’s parents, Toni and Jacob, arrive to stay with her, they are told by her housemate that Maya has gone away and no one knows where she is.

On top of that, I found this interesting essay today: An Essay: Similarities in Australian and Canadian Fiction. I recognize some of the Australian books there, so I think they are pretty well-known here in Australia, though I haven’t read any of them.

Done! How about you?

My (Not-So) Quick Summary of 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival (Part 2)


Continuing Part 1 of My Quick Summary of 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival. Still on Saturday…

Conflict and Childhood (13:30-14:30)

We started queueing up for the event, meanwhile listening to The Stuff of the Past (another event who got broadcasted outside the room where it was held at). It talked about Amanda Curtin‘s The Sinkings, which deals wih the 19th-century murder of an ex-convict who lived his life as a man, but might have been a woman. Doesn’t that sound interesting? We got herd into our own event room before I could listen much further though.

For Conflict and Childhood we had Tash Aw and Abbas El-Zein.  Abbas is from Beirut, Lebanon, and has lived in war environment as a child.  He just recently published a memoir (Leave to Remain). Tash is a Malaysian who recently published his second book, Map of the Invisible World. It’s a story about two brothers who got separated as orphans, one lives in Malaysia having a nice life and one Indonesia having a more difficult life. He said it sort of reflects the journey of the two countries to independence. Malaysia had a smooth way to independence, while Indonesia was brutal. Having born in Indonesia, surely this book intrigued me. I’m putting it on my mental TBR pile.

Both men have since lived outside of their birth countries and found the distance actually make it easier to write about them. Both have English as their second (or even third) language. These are things that I can definitely relate to. The fascination of a second language and the obsession to master it. The experience as an “expatriate” (though that’s not exactly the right term anymore these days since that implies no heavy attachment to the country you live in). I found both men extremely humble and sympathetic.

I went to their book signing afterward and had my copy of The Harmony Silk Factory signed by Tash Aw. Yay! I got to take a picture with him too. His book is the only book I own of the visiting authors at this Festival and his signature is my very first author signature that I got ever. That’s something, eh!


With Tash Aw.

Since we went to the book signing, we missed the next event I wanted to go to. We probably missed it nevertheless. You needed to queue up about 10-20 minutes before most free events started to get in. So again, I just listened to it outside while queueing up. It started to rain. We sat down holding our umbrellas. There’s this one guy sitting alone in the rain just in front of us. I wondered why.

Raining and gloomy

Pier 4/5, Walsh Bay

It got kinda gloomy and melancholy with the rain.

We got to listen to News, Feature, Book: Journalism’s Big Narrative Dig for a while. It featured Paul McGeough, Chloe Hooper and David Marr. Someone was very funny, but I don’t know who. It wasn’t Chloe, because it’s one of the guys. I chuckled a lot for that short time.

Truth in Fiction and Non-fiction (4-5pm)

We got herd in about half hour before the even started and got stamped this time, because they probably just realized that the queuing system had a big flaw. There’s about 100m and cafe with big crowd between the beginning of the official queue and the event doors. What stopped people to just slip in when the doors opened? (I didn’t! I queued!)

This time we got into a big room with capacity around 400 people. About twice bigger than all the other rooms I’d been to. On the panel we had Hugh Mackay, Michael Meehan and Amanda Lohrey. They’re all local authors writing fiction.

The format is a bit different this time. Each took turn to go up the podium and talk (read notes that they had written). They talked about how they bring elements of non-fiction and use it to write fiction. How some facts are dead important to get right in your fiction, otherwise it’ll lose credibility for some readers.

I thought it was okay. Some parts were interesting, some not so much. Oh and everybody in the panel was old (older than all the previous panels I went to), so there was probably a bit of generation gap there. Maybe.

The Author’s Right to Speak (5:30pm-6:30pm)

We went across the street for this event. Tried to find some food or snack before that, but they were so overpriced and not appealing. Then I got cranky because I was hungry and we sat so far away from the stage where the panel was on. Hubby was trying to cheer me up and bought me meat pie, but I was still not in a good mood, so at the end I didn’t get much from this session. The first session that I paid for!

I was looking forward to it for Monica Ali. I think she came to the Festival because she was promoting her new book too, In The Kitchen. But they all were. I wonder if anybody would come if not for promoting their new book. Anyhoo, apart from her, there were Neil James, Richard Flanagan and David Williamson. They discussed about freedom of writing. Touched a bit about PEN organisation (Sydney PEN, an affiliate of International PEN), “an association of writers devoted to freedom of expression in Australia and in the world at large”.

Monica Ali mentioned about The Jewel of Medina (Wiki page here for the controversy), how it was cancelled by Random House shortly before the publication date (then it was taken over by Beaufort Books), because of the warnings to the controversial subject matter. The novel tells a fictionalized version of the life of Aisha, one of the wives of Islam prophet, Muhammad. Well no surprises there. Anything about Muhammad is considered super sacred by the Muslims, so he can’t be touched. From what I read of the reviews though, the book is nothing much of a fluffy romance novel that wasn’t very accurate historically. But that’s the problem with historical fiction. How much is made up and how much is real is hard to know, unless you do the extensive research yourself.

The quality of the book is not the point however. The problem is how certain books are banned and writers are condemned for their writing, some cast out, jailed or even murdered. That’s what they’re fighting for.

The post is getting long again, so I’m going to publish the last part tomorrow! Hopefully I can show some pictures. I like taking photos, but I hate to transfer pictures from my camera to computer.

Read Part 3

My Quick Summary of 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival (Part 1)

swf_logoI’m going to pretend to talk really fast to summarize the Sydney Writers’ Festival that I went to last weekend. I went Friday night, a whole day Saturday, and a tiny bit of Sunday. Most of the Festival was located at Walsh Bay, Circular Quay. They did have a $1 shuttle bus to go there from somewhere near Circular Quay station, but if you know the shortcut, you can walk there in around 10-15 minutes.

FRIDAY, 22 MAY 2009

Playing Poker with the SAS (4:30pm-5:30pm)

Arrived a little bit over 4:30 pm. They didn’t allow me to go to the Event that I wanted because it’s full. I hung around a bit and the gatekeepers said I could go to Studio 1 if I wanted to. I said, sure, why not, whatever that is. They said, just be prepared, he may make fun of you (because I was late). The guy’s a comedian. I think they were just trying to scare me. No drama, I sat at the back.

Apparently he’s an Australian stand-up comedian who went to the war camps in Middle East to entertain the troops, names Tom Gleeson. We had good laughs. His experiences sounded interesting and funny. He said comedian is often seen as sort of a foolish profession. So he found the experience hugely rewarding, because he felt he did good for many people. There was a soldier who approached him and thanked him for making him laugh, with tears streaming down his eyes. He hadn’t laughed for 3 months. Tom was a bit choked up when he told us about the soldier.

NSW Premier’s Literary Awards (6:00pm-7:00pm)

Missed Celebrity Chefs Exposed, because I was worried to miss the next event at 6pm, so I went to Sydney Theatre across the street and queued up. We had Chloe Hooper, Louis Nowra, Rachel Perkins and Tohby Riddle on the panel. I never heard of any of them, but got to know them better after the night.

Chloe talked about how she did her research on Palm Island (Aboriginal community) for her book, The Tall Man, a non fiction book about a death in custody of  Cameron Domadgee. Rachel Perkins is known for directing and writing a bunch of Australian Indigenous Film and Documentary. Her latest is called First Australians. Louis worked with Rachel for that documentary. Tohby writes and illustrates a bunch of children books. One of his books could be the one that inspired Madagascar– the story about 4 animals running away from the zoo (but of course, Hollywood wouldn’t admit it :). I saw his books on the way out, and they look lovely. I loved his art style.

The Great Escape from City Zoo


Will the Real Writer Please Stand Up? (10:30am-11:30am)

Sydney Writers' Festival 2009
Emmanuel Jal, Chris Bray, Sarah Blasko, Miles Merrill

I went to this event particularly for Emmanuel Jal, a Sudanese/Kenyan hip hop artist who also wrote a book about his experience as a boy soldier (Warchild). I read A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah a while ago, also an authobiography of a boy soldier (only he’s from Sierra Leone), so to meet a real ex boy soldier was quite an experience.

Apart from him, we had Sarah Blasko, a songwriter; Chris Bray, an adventurer/journalist/blogger; and Miles Merrill, a spokenword artist. The real host had an accident, so Miles was being really nice by becoming both host and guest. The idea of this event is to talk about various forms of “writing”. About the hope and possibility to be taken more seriously academically. Take songwriting for example. What do you think if it’s taken as a literary form that can be studied in Universities?

Everybody got to pick a piece of their “writing” and show it to the audience. Sarah was singing. She’s an ARIA award winning Australian musician. Lovely lovely voice. Then we went to Chris Bray. He read two pieces of his blog journals, about his adventures in the wild, meeting a pack of wolves and all.

Then Emmanuel! Absolutely the star of the show IMO. He started by singing his hip hop song, asking everybody to stand up and dance (sort of). Miles asked for a second piece without the background music, so we could concentrate even more to the lyrics, and he did so wonderfully too. What a poweful performance. I guess it can’t not be powerful if you had gone through such a horrible experience in your life and survived. Music is his painkiller. It’s what makes him survive. Interestingly, he became a singer by accident. He was sort of forced to sing. He wanted to become an engineer. He studied in UK for a while and got top scores, but couldn’t renew his visa so he had to drop out. He got famous in Kenya as a hip hop singer, then they gave them his visa. Funny.

He’s been moving around a lot so he thinks any comfortable place is a place he can call home. He hopes someday he can return to Sudan. Kenya is his second home. I can definitely relate on the experience of moving around a lot and the impossible circumstances to call your birth country home.

Another interesting story from him was how George W. Bush is considered a hero in Sudan. A lot of people name their kids Bush. He said the whole world blamed him for starting the war in Iraq, but Sudan made peace because Iraq was attacked. So unknowingly to a lot of people, there’s a good side effect of that war to a totally different part of the world. God works in interesting way. It’s a fact that basically made everybody nod and go “wow…”

Emmanuel was wonderful. You can tell that he has a kind heart, and probably a softie. I got to take picture with him afterwards. I hope to read his book in the future, check out his movie and songs.

We hadn’t finished. Sarah, Chris and Emmanuel worked together to “interview” Miles. As example of his work, he performed this short drama about him, a white person, and an Aborigin. I had never heard anything like that before. Well, not in person anyway. It’s like he was performing three people, including sound effects. Well, like a very good storyteller. He’s an African American who was born in Chicago and was mistaken as an Aborigin when he arrived in Australia. He has a few CDs available at the on-site bookstore. I imagine it’s very hard to classify his work. It’s neither book or music. He’s not an actor nor a (pure) comedian. He performs stories (or as the SWF site says, a spoken-word performer). It’s a shame if that cuts his audience though, because he sounded very talented. I hope to check out his works some time in the future.

We went to see them afterward. Emmanuel was no doubt the most popular. We just had to take picture with him!

With Emmanuel Jal

With Emmanuel Jal

Walsh Bay, Circular Quay

At the Pier, Walsh Bay, Circular Quay (where the Festival was)

Oops I’ve written a lot. I guess I’m still kinda excited. I’ll just make my report into a couple of parts. So check out Part 2 tomorrow :)

Read Part 2 and Part 3

Off to Sydney Writers’ Festival

We’re going to stay in the city for Sydney Writers’ Festival this weekend! Yay! I’m excited!

The authors I’m looking forward to see:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (of Purple Hibiscus)
Tash Aw (of The Harmony Silk Factory)
Monica Ali (of Brick Lane)
Mohammed Hanif (of A Case of Exploding Mangoes)

I made a pathetic attempt to read all of their books before the events, but of course it’s virtually impossible. Not with how a slowpoke I am. I’m third way through Purple Hibiscus. That’s about it. I borrowed Brick Lane from the library though (and maybe read a chapter of it before the event) and I’m going to bring my copy of The Harmony Silk Factory (and hope to get Aw’s signature if possible, though I’m not optimistic about it). Surprisingly my library doesn’t have the copy of A Case of Exploding Mangoes!

I would really like to read all these books after the festival, so I may push back the other books on the line. But should I read A Case of Exploding Mangoes? I heard it’s sort of boring. I mean, I’m really not in the mood for boring (even though the topic could be important to know). Not right now anyway. Has any of you read it?

I’m going! Enjoy your weekend! :)

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan


Tales from Outer Suburbia is a collection of short stories. Some very short (a page or two), some a bit longer. And how fantastic they are! I love love love these stories! Or should I say the illustrations. I’m not sure which I like more: the artwork or the stories. They’re both amazing. I often feel that the stories illustrate the pictures than the usual other way around. I can imagine Shaun Tan first drew the illustrations first, then wrote a short story about them. Just a thought :) (and actually, I just read on his website that it was indeed what he did for Tales from Outer Suburbia)

tanTaken from

Tales from Outer Suburbia is an anthology of fifteen very short illustrated stories. Each one is about a strange situation or event that occurs in an otherwise familiar suburban world; a visit from a nut-sized foreign exchange student, a sea creature on someone’s front lawn, a new room discovered in a family home, a sinister machine installed in a park, a wise buffalo that lives in a vacant lot. The real subject of each story is how ordinary people react to these incidents, and how their significance is discovered, ignored or simply misunderstood.

Read his very detail thoughts on each story. It’s amazing how some images are so distinct from each other, as if they were drawn by different artists.

I read this book very slowly, savoring just one story or two each night, and found that it’s probably the best way for me to read short stories, particularly this book. Just don’t rush through them. I don’t think my words can even begin to explain to you how amazing Tan’s work is, so please! Get the book from anywhere you possibly can and have a taste yourself!

One of my favorite is called Distant Rain. “Have you ever wondered what happens to all the poems people write?” is the first sentence. The story is brought in dozens of pieces of paper, scattered across a few pages as if they are carried by the wind and rain, forgotten, neglected, yet powerful.


Grandpa’s Story is another of my favorite. The story is told alternatively between words and illustrations, but not like one page at a time like normal people do. It starts with 2 pages of words, then 8 continuous pages of illustrations, then some pages alternate between words and pictures. I have never ever read anything like this before. As if at one point, he just thought that pictures could explain it better than words, so he just started to draw. Pages and pages, until he started going with words again. He doesn’t care about format. That’s my thought anyway.


There are many more amazing pieces. There are 15 in total. Too bad I was reading a library book. When I get a chance, I think I will buy it for my collection. It’s just that good. I want to show it to my kids and grand-kids and grand-grand-kids. You get the idea.

More pictures below to convince you to get it. See, even the table of content is so out of this world (that’s the picture below).


Another of my favorite is alert but not alarmed. About how everybody has missile on their backyards. First as mean of defense, they started to make use of the missiles in anything other than its initial intention.



eric is another one of my favorite. (How many favorites have I pointed out by now?) Everyone, meet Eric. Eric is a foreign student. (I think he looks like fire)


And gosh, the water buffalo! I love The Water Buffalo! There’s just something about that image of water buffalo pointing. My childhood home used to be located just next to two empty fields where some local water buffaloes bath and feed. Perhaps that’s why I got so attached to this particular piece.


I fall in love. I do.

I should also let you know that he’s an Australian :)

2008, 98 pp

2009 Australian Book Industry Awards Illustrated Book of the Year

Also reviewed by

Stainless Steel Droppings (more pictures here!) | A High and Hidden Place | Stuff As Dreams Are Made On | She Reads Books | Bending Bookshelf | Reading Rants! | Peeking Between the Pages | Monniblog | Read Write Believe | The Funky Rooster

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