Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Like the stories in Tan's Tales from the Inner City, this fable stars a creature who interacts with human society but stands apart from it-or, in Cicada's case, is excluded from it with stiff-necked contempt. Cicada is a loyal company employee, and Tan paints with deliberate strokes the rumpled folds of the insect's suit, his clip-on identification badge, and the back of his green head in a gray office cubicle. "Seventeen year. No promotion./ Human resources say cicada not human./ Need no resources./ Tok Tok Tok!" Viewers see only Cicada's human supervisor's back; he can't even be bothered to turn around to look at his employee. Bullied by his colleagues and not allowed to use the staff bathroom, Cicada suffers indignity after indignity: "Cicada no afford rent./ Live in office wall space./ Company pretend not know./ Tok Tok Tok!" But Cicada has a secret, and what looks like a terrifying end as he steps to the edge of the corporate building's roof becomes a different, lushly illustrated fate. Cicada's narration suggests, coincidentally or not, that of an Asian immigrant, and Tan's story could be regarded as one that holds out the hope of liberation for every mistreated foreign laborer. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 8 Up-Isolated and alone, Cicada is bullied, ignored, overworked, and underappreciated during their 17 years of work for a nameless corporation housed in a depressing gray skyscraper. Now that retirement has arrived, Cicada is at a loss, but hidden under Cicada's wrinkled gray suit lies unexpected strength. The spare text is made up of concise sentence fragments, mimicking the Basho haiku included on the closing folio page, and emphasizing Cicada's otherness. Each page features just three lines of text followed by Cicada's rhythmic "Tok Tok Tok!" printed in a simple font on light gray pages. The illustrations, created with oil paints on canvas and paper, are unflinchingly direct. Utilizing a palette of black, white, and gray with just a touch of the green from Cicada's head and handlike legs protruding from vast suit cuffs, light and shadow depict the static, sterile, impersonal corporate world. In some illustrations, repeated shapes seem to represent the incessant repetition of office work. The spreads each feature a vignette showing the humiliation and isolation Cicada has endured for so many years. The climax, starting with a series of wordless spreads and finishing with just four lines of text is heartbreaking and freeing, relentless and hopeful. There's much to explore, interpret, and examine in this unique and symbolic art book. How does our attitude and position affect our perspective on our situation in life? Is Cicada's "Tok Tok Tok!" a plaintive cry or a derisive laugh? Can it be both? VERDICT Tan fans and others willing to take a deep dive into the many layers of this fascinating book will find much to appreciate. Those who take a shallow dip may end up feeling unsettled and bewildered.-Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From award-winning Tan comes another nonpareil picture book. Tan's eponymous Cicada is a mistreated office worker in a grim office building, employed by a company truly Kafkaesque in its brutal devotion to minutiae. Seventeen year, says our protagonist. No promotion. Human Resources say Cicada not human. Need no resources. Tok Tok Tok! We see the Cicada retire quietly from its mundane, thankless job, homeless and impoverished a pathos evenly played in Tan's deft hand. Tan juxtaposes the heartrending despondency of the story with a new sense of wonder as we see the cicada begin anew outside of his dreary office, just as the muted tones of the man-made office building are ignited by the verdant, gleaming cicada itself. As Tan's books often do, this seems to defy categorization its themes, admittedly, are perhaps too mature for the standard picture-book crowd. But for older readers drawn to unusual narrative formats, this book could work wonders with its nuanced, hopeful depiction of individuality. Illustrated with graceful restraint, this book is a stirring vignette of a life lived against the grain.--Ada Wolin Copyright 2018 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Tan's narratives often critique traditional office culture; this one features the inhumane treatment of the protagonist, a cicada dressed in a four-armed gray suit, complete with tie and pocket square.Oriented vertically, the insect does not reach the top of his human co-workers' desks, thus skewing the perspective so their heads are not visible. The green data entry clerk works in a gray maze of cubicles. Despite his exceptional performance and strong work ethic, he must walk blocks to a bathroom and is physically bullied. Readers will recognize forms of marginalization throughout, i.e., the elevator buttons are too high, poverty forces residency in the office wall. Cicada language is primitive and rhythmic: "Seventeen year. No promotion. / Human resources say cicada not human. / Need no resources. / Tok Tok Tok!" The last line is a refrain following each brief description, suggesting both the sound of a clock (time passing) and the notion of cicada "talk." Upon retiring, he ascends the long stairway to the skyscraper's ledge. The oil paintings of shadowy, cramped spaces transition to a brightened sky; a split in Cicada's body reveals a molten glow. An orange-red winged nymph emerges and joins a sky full of friends flying to the forest, where they have the last laugh. No Kafkaesque conclusion here; metamorphosis brings liberation and joy.Simultaneously sobering and uplifting, it will lead thoughtful readers to contemplate othering in their own lives. (Picture book. 12-adult) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.