Rules of Summer
While birth order is often invisible in school, once the schedule-free days of summer come many children find themselves defined by whether they are “the big” or “the little.” In Rules of Summer, Shaun Tan brings us into an imaginary world of two brothers where stepping on a snail can cause a tornado or forgetting to close the back door can invite a host of unwelcome creatures into your living room. Driven by the complex relationship between siblings, Tan uses simple language coupled with multifarious images and associations to let us linger over what rules of summer count when it comes to childhood. We witness a little brother repeatedly left behind not quite remembering the rules he should. We also watch an older brother transform from the role of dictator to rescuer and perhaps even hero. Like his previous books The Arrival and Tales from Outer Suburbia, Tan captures our imaginations through his fantastical scenes that compel us to think about our own childhood fears, rivalries, and past hopes for redemption. Masterfully, Tan explores the duality of brotherhood—to love and to torment your sibling; to lead and to follow; to leave or to rescue. This book will bring some students to laugh out loud at the older brother’s triumphs and others to wonder whether they themselves will be let into the mysterious and wonder-filled rooms of their siblings down the hall. Sure to spark conversations about the rules that define their summers, Tan’s whimsical illustrations lend themselves to closely read again and again to find new ways of thinking about childhood, summer, family, and the unwritten rules we live by.
About Katie Cunningham
Katie is a Professor of Literacy and English Education at Manhattanville College. There she is also the Director of the Advanced Certificate Program in Social and Emotional Learning and Whole Child Education. Her work focuses on children’s literature, joyful literacy methods, and literacy leadership. Katie is the author of Story: Still the Heart of Literacy Learning and co-author of Literacy Leadership in Changing Schools. Her book Start with Joy: Designing Literacy Learning for Student Happiness will be released September 2019. She is passionate about the power of stories to transform lives.
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