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The Arrival Hardcover – October 1, 2007
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Having been exposed to European graphic novels at an early age, my life long affair was instilled early on, and continued to develop as an adult. Americans are still just starting to discover this world, and would be stunned at the huge variety available in any French or Belgian bookstore. Not just for children, but regarded as a serious art form, the graphic novel is so much more than the rag pulp comics commonly available in the USA.
"The Arrival" by Shaun Tan fits none of these established models. It has no written text, but none are needed as the drawings are wonderful in depicting the story, and effective in evoking the emotions to be "drawn" in.
It is the story of a man who is forced to leave his bleak homeland to seek opportunities in a new world. The new world is so strange and alien to him that he struggles to find footing, but eventually he begins to adapt.
The stylistically timeless mono-toned drawings are gorgeously shaded. The faces are very expressive. The work is presented like an old leather bound book. The pages have virtual weathering.
This book will resonate with anyone who understands the challenges of immigration, but also, as a masterpiece of illustration art.
Absolutely a must in your library.
That's the big scale strategy. But the small scale approach, on a panel-by-panel basis, is equally wonderful. Even before the story really kicks in, and we still seem firmly grounded reality, the first three pages had me hooked. The art is beautiful, and visual story-telling clever and richly emotional.
This is really special. It does require a certain commitment and attention to follow along and place yourself in your story, so it may or may not be a good "children's book", but that would depend on the child.
Top international reviews
I found it to be a fascinating take on the immigrant experience. It really put me in the shoes of someone experiencing the fear and intrepidation of a whole new culture and way of life along with the communication barrier - in a totally unique way.
Since reading it I’ve reflected on it more and more what it must be like for immigrants arriving in my own country.
The only real downside is it was a very short read for the money (it is maybe quicker to read as there are no words - I read it twice in half and hour).
Buy it for your kids, parents, neighbours. And anyone who has never been A Foreigner somewhere (holidays don't count). Because no-one conveys the otherness, the other world-ness, the other planet-ness of that condition like this guy.
Don't try to pin down every symbol or strange creature; I bet their creator can't. It's confusing, because that is how the emigrant finds things. In spades. So we get to share something of his frustration and fear and curiosity.
This book is a unique achievement and I count myself very lucky to have a copy.
Some very young or sensitive children may find some of the images upsetting.
Relevant is contemporary times e.g. refugee crisis. Every page holds a thousand potential stories which are not explicitly confirmed as the narrative is formed by the reader - I love this as everyone sees it differently!