Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tales from the Inner City

File this one under things I did NOT understand. Not only did I not find it appealing (in the same way I didn't enjoy David Weisner's picture books), I can't see my students liking it at all. Still, I try to review things fairly even when my gut reaction is "Children's authors should not drop acid". Trippy, trippy book.

37825535Tan, Shaun. Tales from the Inner City
September 25th 2018 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In this heavily illustrated short story collection, Tan explores the interconnectedness of humans and the natural world. Using animals to link together the narrative, Tan explores such topics as the eternal relationship between mankind and dogs, the place that fishing holds in one community's daily life, and a vignette about all of the members of a governing board turning into frogs. Some of these tales are longer narrative form, and some are blank verse.

All of the stories have at least one full page illustration done in Tan's trademark dark, impressionistic style. The cycle that goes with the dog story is especially evocative and touching, showing the relationship of the two through history. There are some that are a little unnerving, such as a stark-eyed owl in a hospital bed, followed several pages later with a two page spread of just the owl's eyes, and some are just rather sad, like a pig looking out of the darkness through a door. All complement the stories well and add to their meaning.

This would be a very useful book for a classroom studying essential conflicts in literature, since the stories are predominately about the theme of man versus nature. This theme is explored in a variety of approaches that would be conducive for interpretation. I can't think of a lot of collections of literary short stories for middle grade students; this is certainly a level above the Guys Read short story collections on a variety of themes, or the Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, two of the most popular short story collections in my library.

Ms. Yingling

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