Making It Up As We Go Along: Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
THIS IS WHAT I LEARNED LAST SUMMER:
NEVER LEAVE THE RED SOCK ON THE CLOTHESLINE.
NEVER LEAVE YOUR BACK DOOR OPEN OVERNIGHT.
It is high summer, and two boys, brothers, perhaps, wander freely through a strangely lovely, strangely sinister landscape, one with weedy hillsides littered with odd bit of things, a huge metal eye (perhaps part of an optometrist's sign) and a giant, windup dinosaur, while the older boy whispers and shouts the official summer rules. Not dropping your teddy bear on your walk makes sense, but what about the warning not to eat the last olive at a party? Don't be late for the parade seems sensible, but the rule about always bringing bolt cutters seems a bit dubious. Not arguing with an umpire probably is good advice, but how about not stepping on snails?
In Shaun Tan's admittedly surrealistic latest, Rules of Summer (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014), nothing is quite what it seems. Tornadoes loom in the distance, flocks of crows loom from the trees, a giant red bunny takes that red sock, and a huge black cat lolls on a dusty sofa. Seemingly abandoned gray and angular buildings form the background, as the two boys explore, fight with each other, and make their way through a long, long mid-summer's day in some wide-open elsewhere of their own imaginings. But at long last, the day draws to its end.
ALWAYS KNOW THE WAY HOME.
It's not your father's picture book for sure, but this one captures something of the accidental, stream-of-consciousness nature of a child's summer days, illogical, formless, but infinitely intriguing. Tan's artwork, somewhere between the styles of Vincent Van Gogh and Salvador Dali, gives young readers plenty to puzzle over as well. Publishers Weekly says, "As always, the swirl of emotion that Tan’s artwork kicks up lingers long after the book is closed."
Labels: Summer Stories (Grades K-3)