Rules of Summer – Shaun Tan

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Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan has an immature eye and ear, ready to listen to the thoughts of children, so distant from us but so full of meaning. The two brothers wander through pages made up of a world of fiction and reality, crossing streets, houses, surreal places with the desire to play and discover.

Let’s not start the year with controversy, please. I know it’s winter. I know it’s six months until we teacher holidays. I know it well, certain things are never forgotten and holidays are no joke. But I decided to start the year like this.

On Monday 9th January we go back to school and we have to go back keeping in mind a series of rules: “The rules of Shaun Tan’s summer”. For those unfamiliar with Tan, the cover of “Rules of Summer” is keen to remind us of something important: “From the New York Times bestselling author of The Arrival”. Before even reading the review, you must already be in a bookstore or on some site – possibly independent bookstores thanks – and buy The Arrival and Rules of Summer. Have you done it? Come on, do it. Warranty. Shaun Tan is a guarantee. These two masterpieces are two guarantees. My review I don’t know, but the books do. Now, let’s move on.

The rules of summer is an illustrated book published by Rizzoli in 2015; I show you the text in English because some books are wonderful translated, but leave you speechless in the mother tongue: this edition was printed in New York, by the Scholastic publishing house in 2014.

The text is not a simple register, it is a handbook of rules, the arbitrary rules that are given to children and which, often, are absurd and make you think. One of my favorites that I hear at school is: “you can run but only if you do it slowly”, but also to say while you are wearing short sleeves “please keep the sweatshirt”. Yes, because children actually live in a parallel universe where there is less and less 12, so they must always be covered and muffled like this, sweaty, they get bronchitis from the swings but at least they had a nice sweatshirt to show.

Shaun Tan shows us all the rules that the protagonist of the story and his brother learned last summer[1]important rules that we adults cannot understand why Tan speaks baby languagethe language of that childhood that is now lost to us and that we can no longer find.

Tan, on the other hand, has an immature eye and ear, ready to listen to the thoughts of children, so distant from us but so full of meaning. The two brothers around pages made of a world of fiction and realitycross streets, houses, surreal places with the desire to play and to discover, with the desire to do all those things that you can only do in the summer precisely because it is summer, it is that time that as children you have to learn the rules and then be able to transgress them, for have your freedom and to be able to understand what really matters to you.

Rules of summer

Rules of summer

Never give your keys to a stranger
Rules of summer

Rules of summer

Never be late for a parade
Rules of summer

Rules of summer

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Never ask for reasons

Never. Listen to me.

AND, …

Rules of summer

Rules of summer

Always know the way home

A book to read in the company of at least one child, to have the opportunity to have it explained to you by those with an attentive gaze like theirs.

Teaching ideas:

The rules of summer it is a text that I would read starting from kindergarten and on which one can play at rewriting one’s own summer rules, perhaps right after returning from winter or summer holidays, and on which to reflect on issues related to citizenship and the concept in itself as a rule. It is also recommended as a reading gift, to relax and enjoy Tan’s images and words.

We recommend it to… all the teachers who go back to school, to remember to listen to the children and to all the adults who should never miss the last day of summer. That’s it.


[1] https://www.shauntan.net/summer-book

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The article is in Italian

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