Tag Archives: weird

Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

27 Apr

Tales From Outer Suburbia Cover

Tan’s Tales From Suburbia is sure to heighten children’s imagination and make adults remember what it was like to be a child. This book is a compiling of short stories set in suburbia. Tan captures the essence of surburbia with childlike eyes and in a narrative format using images that call upon the common American landscape.

On rare occasions, some especially insistent piece of writing will escape into a backyard or laneway- Be blown along a roadside embankment and finally come to rest in a shopping center parking lot-as so many things do-It is here that something quite remarkable takes place-

The book’s illustrations portray mundane communities that can be found across the United States; their identical houses, green lawns, alongside car laden highways. What is interesting and noteworthy about this book, is that Tan manages to create whimsical  tales amidst a backdrop that lacks any real luster or uniqueness. This book is sure to entertain any adult or child and will call to mind the wonder of  imagination and the creativity that lies within the human spirit.


These short stories are imaginative and whimsical. They remind me of being a child and making fortresses using the dining room table and chairs. Kids live in such a different reality from grown ups. As a grown up now, this book lets me catch a glimpse of of how I use to see the world. You must read this one!

Suggested Library Activity:  

In a school library setting, this book could be used as a segway to an imaginative writing lesson. This book will encourage students to find the extraordinary in the ordinary every day details. Read this story first and then brainstorm creative writing ideas taking ideas from students’ everyday life.

Bibliographic Citation: Shaun, T. (2008). Tales from outer suburbia. New York: Author A. Levine Books.

Additional Book Review:

“Tales From Outer Suburbia” is a collection of illustrated stories about, among other things, a water buffalo who hangs out in a vacant lot and gives directions to local kids; stick figures who get beaten up by neighborhood bullies; a giant du gong that appears on someone’s lawn; and the lonely fate of all the unread poetry that people write — it joins a vast “river of waste that flows out of suburbia.” This last story, by the way, is presented as a flotilla of random scraps that “through a strange force of attraction” come together, the word “naturally” meeting the phrase “many poems are” and then “immediately destroyed…”

Lindgren, H. (2009, November 5). Everyday weirdness. Message posted to http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/books/review/Lindgren-t.html


Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by Jon Fleischman

27 Apr

Phineas Gage is a biographical account  of  a man that accidentally lodges an iron rod into his head from an ill-fated dynamite accident. What is most remarkable about this story is that moments after this life altering event happens Phineas Gage is recounted as telling the story of what happened to himself with the iron rod still lodged in his head! Bystanders were quite perplexed. Fleischman does an effective job in narrative style revealing the events surrounding Gage’s accident using diagrams, charts and photographs chronicling his Gage’s accounts and the scientific community’s explanations. Additionally, Fleischman relates Phineas Gage’s story to the history of brain science and the amazing insight that Phineas Gage’s happening was able to provide to the scientific community and further the understanding of the brain and its processes.

This story is not for students that are squeamish. Fleischman provides vivid descriptions of this horrific event as well as accurate descriptions of the brain and its processes. This book comes highly recommended, especially for those students interested in how the brain works. This book should be considered for any middle school or high school library and is sure to be of great interest to students by making the impossible seem possible.


Holy cow! This guy got an iron rod lodged in his head and was still standing and talking after. Weird. Do I really need to say more? The human brain is an amazing thing and well…brains in general are just pretty awesome. Bird brains, fish brains…you name the brain and it is pure awesomeness! My husband had an uncle in Colombia that had a room full of preserved biological items. Yes, he was a doctor, but that is kind of creepy in a Dr. Jekyll and Hyde kind of way.

Suggested Library Activity:

School librarians can use this book to impress upon students the true joys of nonfiction. This book is an excellent book to use as a way of introducing nonfiction and nonfiction features to students. Using multiple copies of the book have students break out in to groups and with stickies identify and label nonfiction features such as captions, charts, sources, etc.

Bibliographic Citation:

Fleischman, J. (2002). Phineas Gage: A gruesome but true story about brain science. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Additional Book Review:

Gr 5-8 –Beginning with a medical miracle, and ending in mystery, this case study of a railroad worker who not only survived having an iron rod blast through his head, but also went on to lead a (more or less) normal life, serves as a rousing reminder that there is much about the brain that we do not know. The photos and computer-generated reconstructions are as striking (so to speak) as the story.

Peter, J. (2003, May 1). What’s the go of that? Message posted to