Tales from the Inner City

illus. by Shaun Tan. 224p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Sept. 2018. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781338298406.
RedReviewStarGr 7 Up—As with most of Tan's books, this wonderfully eclectic and insightful follow-up to Tales of Outer Suburbia defies categorization. It is at once an art book, a collection of short stories, and an allegorical treatise on modern urban life, using various wild and domestic animals and their relationships with humankind as their focal point. The book opens with a spread of 25 silhouettes of various creatures highlighted within. The individual selections range from a couple of paragraphs to 10 pages or so, and each includes at least one glorious, two-page painting. The captivating stories are by turns smart, funny, tragic, wry, and often wise, if a bit trippy. Whether it's frogs in a board room, rhinos on the freeway, bears heavily lawyered-up for days in court, or orcas in the sky, these seemingly surreal scenarios allow readers to explore the behaviors of humankind and speculate about its possible future in the grand scheme of things. The 7 x 9–inch hardcover trim size may limit the audience of middle schoolers, but this is a volume to hold onto, dip into, reflect on, and interact with, providing limitless writing, art, and discussion prompts.
VERDICT This is a thoughtful and inviting examination of some big questions, without professing to have all the answers. A distinctive artistic achievement that will be welcome in most libraries.

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