Dec 17, 2015

Rules of Summer

by Shaun Tan

I love Shaun Tan's artwork, but found this one a bit underwhelming at first. It depicts the summer activities of two brothers- not at all in the way you might expect. The landscape can be strange, feeling desolate and empty or just downright weird. You see the kids doing things like inspecting small critters on the sidewalk, playing invented games with racket and ball on a bizarre court, marching in a fantastical parade of windup creatures. Each page is a broad spread of a beautiful, textural painting paired with a short sentence of the "rule" the boy learned during his summer- never leave the back door open overnight or never forget the password. You have to imagine by yourself what the story behind each incident is, but it slowly becomes clear that this book is depicting the rules of a relationship, younger and older brother, through their wildly creative games and explorations. I had to sit down and read it several times, it really started to grow on me after the third perusal. Gradually the kids' camaraderie dissolves as one breaks or forgets some arbitrary rule the other has made up, and then there is a period of isolation, loneliness and dismay, which must finally be alleviated by forgiveness and rescue. It is heartwarming. Ok, I need to read it again right now. The images really are incredibly striking. They evoke a lot of wonder and imagination.

I really do like Shaun Tan. The Arrival is my favorite so far. I found mention of The Bird King: an Artist's Notebook on the flyleaf and now I hunger for that book. I think I'd love it. I just found out my library has The Red Tree as part of a three-in-one volume, which is why I never found its title in the database before! So waiting for that one.

Rating: 3/5       52 pages, 2013

more opinions:
Things Mean a Lot
Waking Brain Cells


  1. I love Tan's work too but I'm not familiar with this book. I do wonder if you'll enjoy it more with a re-read.

  2. Oh I still haven't read a single thing by Tan. Disgrace! After the book blogging world has done so much for so many years to raise awareness. One of these days I swear. When I have a little niece or nephew! If I had a little niece or nephew there would be no reason for them not to have all the Shaun Tan books.


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