Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
Enter the surreal world of two brothers with a picture told in few words and many pictures. The book takes place in the previous summer and explains what one of the brothers learned that summer. The lessons are strange, but the images are even wilder. The first lesson is “Never leave a red sock on the clothesline.” It is accompanied by a wonderful and magnificently creepy image of a huge rabbit the size of a house with a red eye staring over the wall as the two brothers cower on the other side. As the pages turn, the world gets odder and odder, forming a cohesive world but one that surprises, horrifies and delights.
As Tan blends humor with his frightening images, one starts to see a world that is beyond our own and yet strangely parallel. These brothers live in a different world, one with its own rules and laws but one that is hauntingly familiar to our own. Perhaps my favorite series of images is the series of pictures for “Never wait for an apology” where the younger brother is padlocked in a small steam engine with smoke pouring from the smokestack. Black birds fly past. Since all of the other images were done as single picture, I didn’t expect to turn the page and see the image continue from farther away. It all evoked so brilliantly the loneliness, the trapped feeling, the isolation of waiting for an apology.
Tan continues to surprise and delight in this new picture book. While not for everyone, there are some children who will adore this skewed world that speaks to our own. Appropriate for ages 6-10.
Reviewed from copy received from Arthur A. Levine Books.
Chandra’s Magic Light: A Story in Nepal by Theresa Heine and Judith Gueyfier
Chandra and her sister Deena were at the market when they saw a man selling a strange lamp. There was a large crowd around him as he explained that the lamp gathered energy from the sun. It would cost less money than a kerosene lamp over time, and it was much healthier too. Chandra’s baby brother had a bad cough, and she knew that this lamp would help him. But the lamp was too expensive for them so they headed home quickly to tell their father of the lamp. But their father didn’t understand the need for a magic lamp or have the funds to spend on one. The girls even showed their father a solar lamp that their neighbor had purchased, but still the cost was too high. So the sisters decided that they would work to get the down payment for a lamp. They picked rhododendrons in the hills and sold them at the market. But even then, they did not have enough money. This story focuses on the efforts of two girls to change the lives of their family members through one act of kindness and hard work.
This book draws the reader into the world of Nepal, evoking the sights, smells and sounds of the busy market before launching into an explanation of the importance of the solar lamps. The authors make sure that readers understand the poverty of the family, the hardships they face and their inability to purchase the lamp they need. The final pages of the book contain facts about Nepal and the way people live there.
The illustrations are bright colored, filled with the colors of Nepal and with the bright colors of the clothing. When the girls head to pick rhododendrons, the pages fill with the blossoms. Those deep pinks and reds are also echoed throughout the home of the family and the clothes that the girls wear. The colors are rich and saturated.
A strong female protagonist, a just cause, a glimpse of Nepalese culture, and a message of sustainability make this a strong addition to any library. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.