Review Detail

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Picture Book 350
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan. unpged. Arthur A. Levine Books/ Scholastic Inc., April, 2014. 9780545639125. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review)

Rules for reading Shaun Tan:
1. Always expect the unexpected.
2. Never skim.
3. Therefore, always leave a chunk of time to pore over the book.
4. Prepare to think.
5. You might just feel a bit uncomfortable.
6. Plan on rereading and finding something new each time that you do.

This is definitely a "never too old for picture books" picture book. There is a universality in the theme that should speak to any generation of siblings. I am the oldest of six (five girls). Were it not for the fact that I went on to birth four boys, this peculiar world might be totally alien to me. Might be. But on second thought, not really. (note rule #4)

As the oldest, I was tasked with "watching" my siblings most summers that I can remember. I remember longing for freedom, to go to camp, to go anywhere really. I remember utter fury at being yoked to this passel. Sure, we all had some fun but I truly resented having to be responsible.

I remember racing my next younger sister around the block on bikes. She was beating me and when she looked back to see where I was, her foot slipped off the pedal and into the spoke of the front wheel. The result was that she pitched over the handle bars bringing the bike with her. I am loathe to admit that I raced right past her. Only when I "won" did I turn my bike around to check on her. Wonder why this long buried memory surfaced while contemplating my review of this book? That is the evocative power of the images. (note rule #5)

At first glance, what with the winsome little guy in the foreground sporting a weird helmet and the cheery palette, one might be lulled into thinking this a nostalgic reminiscence. Upon closer inspection, one might notice the scowl on the face of the older boy and the industrial background. Don't skip the end-pages and the jacket flaps. (note rule #2) Surreal, provocative and disorienting might be words used to describe the illustrations. (note rule #1) Any one of them would make for a great VTS (Visual Thinking Strategy) exercise or writing prompt in the classroom. (rule #3) The entire book could be used as a mentor text at any level.

This is a 2014 favorite. I highly recommend adding it to your collection. I'm going to follow rule #6 now.
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