Jul 19, 2014

Summer Fun- with Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan is an illustrator/storyteller whose talent is widely acclaimed, but whose books are far from predictable or typical in the picture book market. In some ways his books have the same effect on the reading/teaching/publishing world that Maurice Sendak's had - undeniably original, powerful, colorful, and compelling, but also disconcerting, even confusing, dense with image and emotion. 
Author A. Levine Books, April, 2013

Tan's 2013 release, RULES OF SUMMER, fits the above description perfectly. The endpapers suggest that it's a story of two brothers exploring summer in a gritty urban setting. The first title page develops that premise with the vibrant, upbeat pair parading across a vast expanse of yellow intensity. The next page turn reveals the truth- it's a summer of big brother "rules" and little brother struggles- to understand, to withstand, to prove himself, to belong. In short- to keep up. The seemingly mundane left-page "rules" contrast dramatically (and wildly) with the right-page interpretations of the younger boy. 

This is a book that will be loved by various readers for entirely different reasons, will be re-examined repeatedly, and could be reviewed differently by each reader each time it's examined. Here are just a few examples:

Kirkus gave it a starred review that included this:
"Evocative, enthralling and with absolutely astounding artwork so good readers will wish that, like summer, it would last forever. (Picture book. 4 & up)"

School Library Journal review included this:
"I looked at the bookflap and there, lo and behold, the book started to make more sense. According to the flap the rules are those seemingly arbitrary ones that younger siblings have to face when older siblings come up with them. Slowly a book that before had seemed to have only the slightest semblance of a plot began to make a lot more sense. Had I not read the flap, maybe I would have come up with an entirely different interpretation of the pages. Not sure. Whatever the case, I like where the flap took me, even as I suspect that some kids will have entirely different takes."

Since you are making a place for picture books in your busy summer, (and I know you are), get your hands and heads wrapped around this book. Share it with someone, and then hurry back to your library to check out award-winning, best-selling Shaun Tan's other titles. Each one could fill a summer on its own. 

Rules of Summer released in paperback in April, 2014, so it's even easier to have your own copy to peruse over and over again.

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