Book Cover

With a thin, triangular body, spindly appendages, and a head reminiscent of a maple leaf, Eric exudes vulnerability when strapped into a car with a seat belt or peering into an elephant’s cage. His dark-gray form contrasts with the lighter settings in the square panels—one or more to a page—rendered in graphite. The narrator and Mum are not depicted. This story originally appeared in Tan’s Tales From Outer Suburbia (2009). The few changes relate to picture-book pacing: Longer sentences are split to accompany single images; new art and visual tweaks invite slow reflection. Curious and confounding, Eric draws a sink’s drain as a flower (paired with a question mark) and abandons his bedroom for a teacup in the pantry. Such decisions are chalked up to “a cultural thing” by Mum, who only wants him to be happy. When Eric departs, the narrator is bewildered, but readers are then invited to view the pantry for what is “still there after all these years, thriving in the darkness.” Colored pencils create a marvelous array of flowers arising from “small things” Eric had collected, a rainbow-hued thank-you note nestled inside the cup and a familiar shadow on the saucer.

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