In Tales from the Inner City, Shaun Tan (The Singing Bones) perfectly illuminates the sometimes symbiotic, sometimes parasitic relationships between animals of various species, with an emphasis on those that include human beings.
In this collection of 25 untitled short stories and poems, Tan imagines existences for animals in inner cities, giving special attention to the curious distance or extreme closeness humans maintain with other animals. A poem features one of the oldest friendships, that between human and dog, and examines the joy of finding companionship, as well as the pain of deep, unsettling loss. A series of illustrations of the same scene in different settings--dog and owner in tundra, war zone, meadow, desert--interrupts verses of the poem, the ending showing the beauty of reconciliation. Many of the stories, like the animals within, form a synergistic bond. One tells about the annihilation of generations when a great shark-like creature is slaughtered; the other tells about the salvation of generations when the fish's roe sack is released into the inky waves of the atmosphere. "The only place left for a fish... the only untouched openness with any tide or current," Tan writes, "well, it's the sky."
With the "names" of each short story or poem marked by the silhouettes of numbered beasts before the epigraph of the book, Tan's brilliant illustrations thread together these haunting pieces. Tan's full-page spreads of the last rhinoceros against a background of bumper-to-bumper traffic and of yellow eyes beaming out from the face of a snowy owl are just two of the evocative illustrations that accompany these prescient and apocalyptic works. Tales from the Inner City is a nuanced, emotional look at animals who were here pre-human settlement, who will be here after--and those who won't. --Breanna J. McDaniel, author, freelance reviewer