Author: Shaun Tan
Genre: Picture Book
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Publication Date: 1st April 2010
Rating: 5/5 stars
Eric is eternally curious and effortlessly charming – a house guest whose approach to the world will capture your heart. This is a mini gift edition of one of the most loved stories from the multi-award-winning, internationally lauded masterpiece Tales from Outer Suburbia.
My review of this gorgeous pocket-sized book will only be short – I don’t want to use more words than the book itself! (Even though that is ALWAYS difficult with a Shaun Tan book – he truly embodies the idea of pictures saying a thousand words!)
Eric first appeared in Tan’s 2008 Tales of Outer Suburbia. Being absolutely adorable, he quickly became the star of his very own book. The story deals with cultural differences, and the hardships that come with inhabiting a new cultural space. It teaches both children and adults with its simple, lilting story, and the stunning pictures in black-and-white.
Eric is an exchange student, and he confuses his host family (a member of which is the narrator) by sleeping in the pantry instead of the spare room, and by his fascination with objects on the ground. Eric is quiet, and when he leaves, the family isn’t quite sure whether he enjoyed himself – and then they see the gift he left behind.
Although it was incredibly short, I am still thinking about this story weeks after I put it down. There are just so many possible readings to be taken from its 48 pages. Eric lives in quiet contemplation of the world around him – is this Tan implying that we need to slow the pace of modern life? Eric continually picks up tiny objects from the ground – is this a social commentary indicating that we should look after our planet better by cleaning up after ourselves? Eric (as you’ll see in the picture below) is not a human character – by having this creature act like a human, is Tan commenting on physical differences and how we react to them as a society?
Normally I don’t count picture books in my monthly book count, but this book reminded me of their relevance. Eric was not just adorable, but also a story which inspires much consideration of the society we inhabit and the world in which we live.
What’s your favourite picture book? Is there a pertinent message?