Rules of Summer
Conduct of life
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ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD thinks this title is suitable for 5 years and over
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“This is what I learned last summer,” says the book. It’s the kind of statement you might expect to find in an essay on How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Instead, what follows is a series of imaginative, wholly original extremes. Two brothers live in a world of fantastical creatures and gizmos. The younger continually breaks the rules as the elder either berates him or tries to save him from himself. A dinner party of well-dressed birds of prey contains the sentence, “Never eat the last olive at a party” as the older brother pulls his younger away from the potentially deadly entrée. “Never leave the back door open overnight” sees them both facing a living room awash in vegetation and giant lizards, the older boy clearly put out and the younger carrying a bucket and shovel. As the book continues you realize that the younger boy is often at odds with the rules his elder is trying to instill in him. The final straw comes after a massive pummeling, after which the elder brother sells his little bro off to a flock of black birds (“Never lose a fight”). Fortunately, a rescue is made and the book subtly shifts from admonitions to positive statements (“Always know the way home”). The final shot shows the two boys sitting on the couch watching TV, the walls of their living room wallpapered with drawings of the out-of-this-world creatures encountered in the rest of the book.
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Shaun Tan interviewed about Rules of Summer
Shaun Tan's picture books take us into strange and beautiful worlds in which familiar places (back alleys, suburban streets and the basements of houses) become landscapes of fantasy and sometimes of menace. This is an innocent world in which little people come face to face with big questions about life and history. Questions about who were are in the midst of all the clamour. Shaun's titles include the The Red Tree, Tales from Outer Suburbia, and The Arrival, his acclaimed graphic novel about a migrant who leaves his home country for a better life. A charming animated version of his story The Lost Thing earned him an Oscar. Last year Shaun took out the prestigious Swedish prize for children's literature, the Astrid Lindgren Award. His latest picture book is called Rules of Summer and it's the story of two young boys whose friendship is tested by many challenging situations.