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Book Review: The Arrival by Shaun Tan


The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Guest post by Gypsy Stockley

I’m one of those people that love books so much I have to categorise to be able to name my favourites.

This is a pretty bold statement but I feel quite safe in making it. For the rest of my life I am sure that my all time favourite Graphic Novel will be The Arrival by Shaun Tan. (I must admit I haven’t read many Graphic Novels).

Considered a ‘Children’s or Young Adults’ book this classification should not stop anyone from reading it. The Arrival is an essentially wordless story that documents the arrival of an immigrant into a foreign country. The manner in which the story is conveyed is sublime for evoking the feelings and thoughts of the main character a father of one who has set off ahead to start a new life for his family in a new place.

Shaun Tans art work is incredible. Incredible.

The sepia and monochrome images demand your attention and detailed study. The variation between full page spreads and panelled layouts which can have up to 30 images on the page help to convey the story and emotions of the main character. The detail is incredible and more of the story is discovered the more often you read it. There are hidden gems of humour and fear amongst the pages.

The only words in the story come from an invented language that the main character struggles to understand as he makes his way through the new land. This is one of the most compelling reminders of just how hard it can be for stranger in a foreign land.

Slowly he makes his way through the world encountering other refugees in the new land. Each recounts their own tale in the images of how they came to be there. I won’t say any more lest I ruin the story. The true gift of this story comes from the way that the reader must also decipher the land and it’s workings, creatures, food alongside the main character. Shaun Tan’s invented and surreal country is so unfamiliar that the reader ends up feeling much like the stranger in the strange land- putting us in the same shoes as the main character.

It’s not often that I find a story that makes me hold my breath, gasp and sigh all at the same time. I believe this book is a ‘must own’ for any home library.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Eric Hill February 24, 2012, 8:28 am

    What a moment of synchronicity! I am a teacher and have “taught” The Arrival for the past two years. In fact, my students final papers are due today…and I stumble upon your post. The Arrival always evokes strong responses with my kids and it is such a unique and beautiful story. It is a must read! Great literature with no words.

  • Paul Anderson February 26, 2012, 10:20 pm

    A wonderful book, not a quick “read” per se, but it certainly evokes emotional responses. I had my kids read this also, and was pleased to see how well they appreciated it.