Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Rules of Summer, by Shaun Tan

I think I've made it pretty clear that I'm a massive fan of The Tan. A Tan Fan, if you will. His newest publication is, as one would expect, brilliant. It's thought provoking and nostalgic for the adults, fun and joyous and full of colour and adventure for the young readers. It's about family and imagination the wonder of childhood.

Each double spread has only one line of text- a thing learned over the summer, a little piece of wisdom from child to reader. Never do this. Never do that, says the voice of childish experience. It's accompanied by a fantastic, sometimes terrifying and sometimes wondrous illustration as evidence of why you should act on this advice.

I love everything that goes into these images and how much there is to be understood and deciphered in them. The whole world of a child can be seen in these drawings if you look hard enough. There's the fearful thrill of the unfathomable adult world, the endlessness of summer days, the promise of adventure and creation, the boundless imagination of childhood and the longing for acceptance and understanding. Illustrations that seem confusing and fantastical, surreal even in places begin to sort themselves out into sense and understanding. The reader has to work it out for themselves and once they begin to unravel they are incredible.

I loved the style of the artwork in Rules of Summer, and each page is a little, weird work of art. The thick, expressionist brushstrokes where the paint has been slathered on look real enough to touch. Every page is a mystery until it's studied. The palette of the pages varies, changing the mood of the book frequently. There's a few pages of desolate black, white and grey when are heroes look doomed, bursts of colour when the imaginary reaches its peak. I loved the contrast too- the gloom and boredom of the everyday, the understood, compared with paradise, the spectrum of the mysterious unknown. The fear of being on the outside looking in must be familiar to every person, ever, at some point in a person's life. This is such an accurate depiction of that feeling. I don't even have words for it. You don't need words when you have pictures.

The best rendering of "Being on the outside looking in" that I have ever known.
Tan, S. (2013) Rules of Summer Sydney: Hachette 
At the heart of the story, because there is most definitely a story even if there aren't many words, is about two brothers and their summer of imagination. Just a glance at the art shows how much the younger brother looks up to and reveres his older, wiser brother. The older boy shows his little brother how to do things, he makes up unreasonable rules for him (because he can), he looks after him and keeps him safe. They learn things together, things they have worked out by themselves.

Never eat the last olive at a party
Tan, S. (2013) Rules of Summer Sydney: Hachette  
It's a book thats scope and depth and meaning is as limitless as the reader's imagination and experience. I loved it. As far as I'm concerned, this wins. This wins all day long. Shaun Tan wins everything ever.

No comments:

Post a Comment