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This review is from: The Arrival (Hardcover)
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Once, as a boy, I was exploring the recesses of my grandmother's attic. Lifting the lid of an old trunk I discovered a thick envelope full of yellowed papers. The handwriting was ornate and fading; the language indecipherable - a mystery begging to be solved.
That's how I felt reading Shaun Tan's The Arrival. This engrossing book has the feel of old documents or a family album that has been lost for years. Pick it up and you hold in your hand the account of an immigrant who travels across cultures to a new land and a strange life. Yet this story is its own mystery to be solved because it is told entirely without words!
Pictures on each page reveal new clues to the story. Tan renders his drawings in pencil with a sepia tone and "water stains" that suggest the age and authenticity of a historical document once hidden between the rafters. Seen through the eyes of the protagonist who leaves his homeland, the culture of the new world is familiar and confounding at the same time. Buildings, street vendors, animals, foods, even kitchen utensils are foreign and confusing presenting complicated challenges for the main character. We find ourselves observing, analyzing, and interpreting this strange culture too.
And that's the fun of this book. We also must decipher and ascribe meaning to the images that create this story. Sometimes we even have to decide the order in which to "read" the sequential pictures! Tan's book gives a heart-felt voice to the immigrant experience and opens a window for anyone going abroad or welcoming new comers to their own land.
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