Rules of Summer
by Shaun Tan; illus. by the author
Primary Levine/Scholastic 56 pp.
5/14 978-0-545-63912-5 $18.99 g
“This is what I learned last summer: Never leave a red sock on the clothesline. Never eat the last olive at a party. Never drop your jar.” The narrator enumerates a dozen other rules, which are printed on left-hand pages that are marked by stains and wrinkles, smudged fingerprints, and streaks of colored-pencil scribbles. The right-hand pages depict, in thickly textured paintings, a young boy (presumably the narrator) and an older boy (perhaps his brother) in a variety of enigmatically surreal situations. The frenemy quality that characterizes many sibling relationships gradually reveals itself here, as the rules seem to be dictated by the older boy, and the younger one never seems to do anything right. They fight, and the younger boy finds himself confined to a prison-like train moving through a dreary subterranean gray landscape for several wordless spreads before the older boy rescues him, restoring peace and harmony. Rules of Summer delivers what Tan’s fans have come to expect: superb artwork that elicits both a cerebral and emotional response and that, when coupled with the text, invites readers to plumb the mysterious depths of the human experience.
From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.