TAN, Shaun Rules of Summer Lothian, 2013 unpaged $24.99 ISBN 9780734410672 SCIS 1626346
Shaun Tan produces picture books of singular vision. Not every understands all the themes within them, but all agree the illustrations and art within are sublime. Whilst he openly admits to deriving many of his illustrations from the classics, as many brilliant painters have done, he makes them his own and folds them into a story with layers of meaning and emotion.
Many have remarked upon first reading they did not follow the story and this is a picture book indulgence. It is true many excellent authors and illustrators find themselves navel gazing once succes has guaranteed publication. I would definitely say Shaun has not done that here. This is of similar depth and importance as his brilliant Red Tree.
The primary source of the conflict within this book is the difficult relationship between two brothers. The rules of summer are simply stated and juxtaposed against a surreal landscape of mythical creatures and alien skies. This is also the playground of two brothers who are intensly devoted to each other and in constant conflict, as only brothers can be. The resolution is intense and satisfying.
This book will not be loved by all children or even all adults, but all children and all adults should be encouraged to read it. Younger siblings will identify with this book immediately. Older siblings will deny it has any relevance to them. DM