Rules of Summer

Rules of Summer

Book - 2014
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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Arrival !

Never be late for a parade.
Never forget the password.
Never ruin a perfect plan.

It's all about the rules. But what if the rules feel completely arbitrary? What if your older brother is the only one who gets to make them up all summer long? And what if he's the only one who can save you when the darkness of winter comes rushing in?

As usual, master artist and storyteller Shaun Tan shows us the strange truth of ordinary things - rules, relationships, despair, and hope - as only he can.

Publisher: New York : Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014, c2013.
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9780545639125
Branch Call Number: JP Tan
Characteristics: 1 volumes (unpaged) : color illustrations


From Library Staff

forbesrachel Feb 06, 2015

These are some of the rules of summer, "never step on a snail", and "never talk to a stranger". By themselves, these suggestions and bits of wisdom are the typical fare of most children's books, however, the art adds an extra layer to these lessons by showing some unusual cons... Read More »

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Dec 01, 2018

The book is too weird for me and I don't think it will suit most young children. Some parts can be bit scary for children. I didn't understand the plot, but give the author credit for his illustrations.

Oct 13, 2018

I don't believe in censorship, but this book disturbed my 3 year old grandson. I thought it just weird, but really didn't like the illustration of 2 kids fighting. The minimal narrative does nothing to explain or justify the graphics.

Jul 17, 2018

The text is so sparse kids could have fun making up their own stories to go with the illustrations.

ArapahoeLesley Feb 08, 2018

I love everything that Shaun Tan does and this picture book filled with his distinctive style is no exception.

forbesrachel Feb 06, 2015

These are some of the rules of summer, "never step on a snail", and "never talk to a stranger". By themselves, these suggestions and bits of wisdom are the typical fare of most children's books, however, the art adds an extra layer to these lessons by showing some unusual consequences; stepping on a snail causes a tornado! In this book we see the world through the lens of two young boys' imaginations. From their viewpoint the city looks like a surreal urban sci-fi, with strange creatures and machines inhabiting their home instead of adults. Each page looks like a piece from an art gallery with its rich oil paints. Textures come through so sharply that it looks like you could feel their depth despite the smoothness of the paper, and colours consistently match the atmosphere. Within this strange landscape is a story of two brothers enjoying their freedom together. The little one eagerly follows his big brother, yet they eventually find themselves at odds, and just like most siblings, they remain apart until they can forgive each other. Summer is only special when you can share it with another. This simple content is made truly special through the expressive vision of the artist.

Sep 10, 2014

Somewhat disturbing. Unfortunately, this book was on display during <3 year old story hour despite it not being appropriate at all. Sorry that we brought it home and that I had to attempt to calm fears after reading through it...

nypl_morningside_heights Sep 08, 2014

For ages 4 and older as one need to use their imagination to fill in the blanks of the unsaid words. It’s the juxtaposition of the “rules” and illustrations that tell the tale. Worth the look but only read the book aloud if you enjoy the tale!

Aug 20, 2014

Very different kind of story. Would not recommend for little kids . The illustrations are rather bizarre and creepy and some of the rules are weird.


Brothers have a tendency to tricky to render on the page but it can be done. Tan has perfectly rendered one such relationship with all its frustrations, betrayals, fights, complaints and deep, enduring love. This book sympathizes with those kids, regardless of their birth order. The rules of childhood are built on shifting sands, causing children everywhere to look longingly at the seeming sanity of adulthood. It’s only when they cross over that these kids will find themselves nostalgic for a time of outsized rules and their overblown importance. Without a doubt, the best book about what summer means to child siblings I’ve ever read.

JCLAmyF Jul 16, 2014

Rules that make a lot of sense, rules that make no sense... the rules of childhood. This book is gorgeous - and creepy! The beautiful illustrations in this book remind me of Yves Tanguy, the French surrealist painter. Gorgeous, disconcerting, and lovely. A book to enjoy with older kids.

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Feb 08, 2017

Isaugust thinks this title is suitable for 3 years and over


ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD thinks this title is suitable for 5 years and over


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“This is what I learned last summer,” says the book. It’s the kind of statement you might expect to find in an essay on How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Instead, what follows is a series of imaginative, wholly original extremes. Two brothers live in a world of fantastical creatures and gizmos. The younger continually breaks the rules as the elder either berates him or tries to save him from himself. A dinner party of well-dressed birds of prey contains the sentence, “Never eat the last olive at a party” as the older brother pulls his younger away from the potentially deadly entrée. “Never leave the back door open overnight” sees them both facing a living room awash in vegetation and giant lizards, the older boy clearly put out and the younger carrying a bucket and shovel. As the book continues you realize that the younger boy is often at odds with the rules his elder is trying to instill in him. The final straw comes after a massive pummeling, after which the elder brother sells his little bro off to a flock of black birds (“Never lose a fight”). Fortunately, a rescue is made and the book subtly shifts from admonitions to positive statements (“Always know the way home”). The final shot shows the two boys sitting on the couch watching TV, the walls of their living room wallpapered with drawings of the out-of-this-world creatures encountered in the rest of the book.


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“Never leave a red sock on the clothesline.”


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