TAN, Shaun: RULES OF SUMMER
Hachette Australia, ISBN: 9780734410672, unpaged
To become lost in a Shaun Tan picture book is to suddenly find your imagination. Rules of Summer is an extraordinary book containing stunning artwork and a sparse narrative amid an emotional landscape. The reader is invited to follow two boys, perhaps brothers, as they experience some essential lessons of life within a surreal fantasy. Reading this book is like exploring an art gallery and losing yourself in the stories that the paintings inspire. The spare but thought provoking text meanwhile offers opportunities for reinterpretation and reflection on the magnificent artwork. Although Tan’s books can be challenging, the experience is always enriching.
King Pig is a complex character who changes, grows and learns but still needs to improve. He wants the sheep to like him but his hilarious attempts to earn their loyalty are studiously ignored. Finally he realises that he has to do something for his subjects. They accept his efforts with reservation and the conclusion hints that he will need to do more. Bland’s illustrations, particularly the facial expressions of the sheep and their actions, augment the text. The bold use of colour catches the eye and entices the reader to explore the finer details within each double page spread. King Pig is a right royal romp delivering a gentle message about the abuse of power.
Jodie draws a picture while Jonathan takes his first step and in that moment the reader is diverted to snapshots of people all over the world going about their lives. This is the frame of this exciting, demanding and compelling book. The soft watercolours exude a warmth and understanding of the diverse characters from around the world. Small touches, such as the feather falling on the endpapers and within the story, emphasise that the events take place over a moment in time. Details of family life can be found in the illustrations which extend and support the themes of humanity, compassion and understanding.