Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan

 Never be late for a parade.
Never forget the password.
Never ruin a perfect plan.

It's all about the rules. But what if the rules feel completely arbitrary? What if your older brother is the only one who gets to make them up all summer long? And what if he's the only one who can save you when the darkness of winter comes rushing in?

I'm glad I read Betsy Bird's review of Rules of Summer immediately after I read the book. I went back and did another read through and I never would have garnered that meaning on my own had it not been for Betsy's insights. I feel like I need an interpreter every time I read a Shaun Tan book, or at least someone who is more adept at reading symbolism than I am. His books completely perplex me, but I also have an intense desire to talk about them with someone to try to figure out all the weirdness.

I liken Shaun Tan to the illustrator version of Neil Gaiman. I know Gaimnan's work is brilliant, but it's a little too creepy and weird for me and I just don't get the appeal. That is my exact feeling about Tan's work as an illustrator. I know it's brilliant, but it just doesn't resonate with me the way I feel it should.

Rules of Summer might be a good book to read with students on the first day/week of school to give them something deeper to reflect on than the traditional "What I did on my summer vacation" assignment. Since the first line of the story is "This is what I learned last summer," that line coupled with the book's strangeness could be a catalyst for students to go beyond the typical "I went to Disney World and it was fun" response, and turn it into something much more detailed and thought-provoking. 

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
Published: April 29, 2014
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 48
Genre: Fantasy Picture Book
Audience: Primary/Middle Grade/Young Adult 
Disclosure: Library Copy

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