The Rules of Summer

. We Are Wheelbarrow. 2014. iOS, requires 6.3 or later. Version 1.3. $4.99.
Gr 3 Up—Atmospheric, textured, surreal—the work of Shaun Tan is easily described as cinematic. His tableaux appear to be stills from a larger story, his settings hint at a world fully imagined far beyond the frame. Music and other sounds are implied by objects and actions in the picture. And in fact, Tan is an animator as well as an illustrator, receiving an Academy Award in 2011 for Best Short Film (Animated) for his adaptation of his The Lost Thing (Lothian Books, 2000).So it seems quite natural—as natural as anything associated with the eerie, offbeat imagination of Tan could be—for him to create an app version of his new book Rules of Summer (Scholastic, 2014). The title itself implies sunlit, child-governed anarchy, exploration, arbitrary tests of fearlessness—a world in the process of being interpreted anew through a child's eyes. And in this app, what they see is mind-blowing.The user is invited in with the words, "This is what I learned last summer." Each page features a single line ("Never leave one red sock on the clothesline." "Never step on a snail." etc. ) and a hand-drawn icon. Tapping the icon pulls viewers into a painting, landing on a very small detail of the big picture. Subsequent pictures tell a story of two boys, perhaps brothers, adventuring with various robotic and/or monstrous friends through odd landscapes. The print version of Rules is easier to decipher, narrative-wise. But the oblique presentation of Tan's paintings in the app, together with the muted clanks, birdsong, hums and tinkles of the sound track leaves more room for speculation. It's a beautiful app that rewards repeat visits.—Paula Willey, Pink Me

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