The Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan

People who know me are aware of my love of books but may not know that I enjoy picture books every bit as much as novels and works of non-fiction. For those who don’t know me, start here (My Love Affair With Books).

The Rules of SummerA couple of weeks ago, as I shelved picture books in the children’s department of the library where I used to work, I discovered Shaun Tan’s book, The Rules of Summer. The unusual artwork on the cover immediately caught my eye, and I indulged in a few stolen moments to read the book. What a treasure.

The lean text tells the story of two brothers and the unique and arbitrary rules that govern their summer. The pictures, semi-abstract creations in oil and acrylic, relay a deeper story about the nature of the boys’ relationship.

I believe the story speaks volumes about how people treat each other whether they’re children or adults, friends or family. It’s testimony to how far we will go in our relationships and exactly what we’ll tolerate and for how long. This may sound heavy for a picture book, but the beauty of the subtle message is that there is hope even when human nature ensures that this process repeats itself. When it does, we learn and grow, love and forgive.

I’ve already enjoyed reading The Rules of Summer five times and have decided that I must own a copy for my private library. The book as a whole is an incredible work of art, and I’ll never tire of sifting through the many layers of the story, both words and pictures.

The Pleasure of Unexpected Surprises

I married into a family of car lovers. My only requirements for a vehicle are automatic transmission, air conditioning, and reliably get me from point A to Point B. For them, the purchase of a car is met with the same excitement one feels when bringing home a newborn for the first time.

One Sweet Ride

One Sweet Ride

My husband’s family loves to watch NASCAR, a sport devoted to cars. They sit glued to the television as the parrot-colored cars speed around the track over and over and over for hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles. After the National Anthem reverently sung by a country singer, impressive military jets soaring past, and the thrill of the classic line, “Gentlemen, start your engines,” you only need to watch the first and last lap to get the gist of what is going on. My in-laws would remind me there are spectacular crashes not to be missed.

So, if I have completely failed to understand their love of cars, how is it that one of the best days of my life was spent with my husband, Will, at a car show? The answer is that it had nothing to do with the cars and everything to do with the man who loves the cars.

This past Saturday, my best fella and I attended the annual car show hosted by Holy Cross Lutheran Church. The crisp fall day was perfect for walking around the church parking lot looking at a variety of vintage cars. The small sized ensured that a non-lover of cars like myself wouldn’t be bored.

A silver and black, 1969 Camaro was the first vehicle to catch my eye. Instead of the grease and oil smell of a garage that I expected, I leaned in through the open window to inhale the sun-warmed aroma of the pristine interior. Like old-book scent, to which I am addicted, the smell of the car exuded history.

Baby You Can Drive My Car

Baby You Can Drive My Car

William, whose automotive knowledge obviously exceeds my own, kept walking away from the cars before I was ready to leave. I had to examine the front, each side, the back, the inside, and any little detail that caught my eye before I could move on. He laughed at me when I told him to either go on without me or slow down.

Our afternoon included delicious free food, a raffle of automotive-themed prizes, and the friendliest church members I have met in a long time. Still, the best part of my day was the fact that I spent it with Will. A couple child-free hours with the man I love doing what he loves best went a long way to recharging my own batteries.

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