Book Review: Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan

rules of summerA version of this piece was first published on 22nd December, 2013 in my column, Tots to Teens in The Sunday Star

Author & Illustrator: Shaun Tan
Publisher: Lothian Children’s Books, 48 pages

NEVER BREAK the rules. Especially if you don’t understand them.’ That’s on the back-cover of Rules of Summer, Shaun Tan’s latest picture book. One might also say, ‘Never discount a Shaun Tan picture book. Especially if you don’t understand it.’

I hardly ever understand Tan’s picture books. Or rather they usually leave me feeling perplexed and with many questions. I once remarked to a fellow-Shaun Tan fan that his art is so beautiful that it doesn’t matter that his stories don’t quite work or make sense. At that point, I believed that Tan would not be a published author if he wasn’t such an outstanding artist. However, I’m starting to change my mind about that. Now I think that when Tan makes a whole book, providing words and pictures, you can’t have one aspect without the other. The words may be cryptic, they may not make up the usual story pattern – conflict, climax, resolution – but they offer the reader a starting point to create that structure for herself. They set the wheels of the imagination in motion, and that’s also what his art does.Read More »

Interview: Shaun Tan

A shorter version of this interview was first published on 27th September, 2009 in The Star.Shaun_Tan_portrait300px

MOST PEOPLE tend to associate picture books with simple stories, illustrated with simple, brightly coloured pictures. Of course, those with a more intimate knowledge of this medium of storytelling know that there is more to picture books than just pretty pictures that simply offer a visual description of a straightforward, basic text.

Picture books may deal with complex and difficult themes and subject matter, and this may be reflected in either the text or the art, or both.

Shaun Tan is a picture book artist whose work is definitely more complex than what the average person might expect to find in a alphabet or counting book. I know people who started collecting picture books after they read one of Tan’s. The Melbourne-based 35-year-old started his career drawing for science fiction and horror novels. His art appears in picture books written by John Marsden (The Rabbits) and Gary Crew (The Viewer and Memorial) and he also illustrates his own books (The Red Tree, The Arrival, The Lost Thing, Tales from Outer Suburbia).


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Interview: Randa Abdel-Fattah

RandaFirst published on 8th April 2007, in StarMag.


IN Does My Head Look Big in This?, Randa Abdel-Fattah describes the experiences of a young Muslim Palestinian-Australian after she decides to wear the hijab (veil).

Randa, a Palestinian-Egyptian who was born in Australia, was in Kuala Lumpur recently for the Kuala Lumpur International Literary Festival (Klif07, March 28-30). In an interview squeezed into a busy day meeting the press, visiting schools and making author appearances at bookshops, she said that she started writing the book when she was a teenager and can’t bear to look at her first draft.

“Reading it makes me cringe,” she laughed.Read More »

Book Review: Does My Head Look Big in This by Randa Abdel-Fattah

does my head look big.jpgFirst published on 4th February, 2007 in StarMag

Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books, 368 pages

Isn’t that title a gas? I love it! It’s witty and a little smart-alecky, like the heroine of the book, 16-year-old Amal Mohamed Nasrullah Abdel-Hakim, a Muslim Palestinian-Australian who decides that she’s ready to wear the hijab (veil) fulltime.

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