There are some writer/illustrators that are so tremendously talented that it feels necessary to read everything they have written. Shaun Tan is the perfect example of an author and illustrator who is not to be missed. His books are beautifully rendered, atmospheric, and somehow poignant. They usually leave me feeling happy and sad at the same time, and they are always worth multiple readings to uncover small details and peel back layers of meaning. If you are an adult, you may love his unmistakable illustration style and the (non-judgmental) messages that his books convey. Children will enjoy the unique pictures and the ability to narrate each one on their own. Shaun Tan has a great imagination, and his newest picture book is no exception!
The Rules of Summer may be one of those picture books that although words are few, is intended for slightly older readers. Unlike The Rabbits and The Lost Thing (also, I would say, for older readers than 3 to 6-year-olds), it doesn’t follow a story arc, exactly, but the pictures tell a multitude of stories. The sheer imagination behind a page that simply reads “Never leave the back door open overnight”–a fiery tree growing out of the living room floor, exotic insects and reptiles climbing the walls, sea creatures bursting forth from the carpet–is quite something to behold. Tan has a way of bringing usually inanimate or imaginary creatures to life in surprising ways. The spare text paired with descriptive pictures gives the reader the ability to interpret and to tell their own stories. You could spend hours with a child, narrating the detailed drawings and imagining what had come to pass in each scene in a myriad of different ways. You can make the meaning your own, which is one of the neatest parts about reading Shaun Tan (and reading in general).
The Rules of Summer is pure visual fantasy. It follows a big brother and a little brother as they remember the previous summer and what they have learned. Each page features a story contained in one sentence and a rich illustration. It is sometimes haunting and wild or light and funny, but it is always beautiful and completely inventive. Like many of Tan’s books, this is best read one-on-one or alone. The experience is one you won’t soon forget! The inscription in the back of the book is “For the little and the big,” and I think it’s a perfect one.
See what other Shaun Tan books we have here.