Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Arrival - Shaun Tan


The world of graphic novels has sort of been a new discovery for me over the last year or so, and I've found the experience to be thrilling. I know there are many of you that look at this type of book with a skeptical eye, but to me it is almost like combining the joys of reading and watching movies. In many cases, the visuals just grab you by the hair and pull you into the book. They are generally a very quick read, and can, in just a couple of hours, blast you right out of that reading slump. It's immediate, and impactful.

I'd been hearing about Shaun Tan forever. His work has won umpteen awards, and just this year, won an Oscar for the short animation "The Lost Thing" that was adapted from his book of the same title. I was long overdue for an introduction, and I started with his most well-known publication, "The Arrival".

In nostalgic sepia tone, and without a single spoken word, Tan documents the story of one man who leaves his family and immigrates to a land of promise in search of a better life. We sense that his homeland is threatening by an unspecified evil (war? disease? oppression?) and has no choice, but is an extremely painful decision.






















Upon arriving in the new world, the man is faced with a strange language (invented by the author to create the sensation of confusion), fascinating and magical buildings, and unrecognizable creatures, one of which attaches itself to the man and becomes its companion.

















The man meets others who have walked in his shoes, ones of varied races and ethnicities, and they show him kindness and help him with his transition. Once the man's family finally joins him in the new country, they pay this kindness forward to other newcomers.






















The beauty of this story is in its simplicity, its magical realism, its hopeful innocence, and the immigrant's tale that could be applied to any country, race or culture. My heart was filled to the brim almost intantaneously with emotion and yet not one word is written. It was enough to take my breath away, and then after I'd turned the last page, sit there in stunned silence.

The book is described as a children's book. It's certainly appropriate for any age, and the illustrations would most likely enchant them, but I wonder if the underlying message would be lost. I sat down and went through the book with my son, whose mind can stretch around just about any concept, and he loved the book, but needed some explanation. Our absolute favorite thing about the book is the little white creature who adopts the immigrant man (on the front cover). We think we need one of those little guys.

Without a doubt, one of the best graphic novels to date.

5 out of 5 stars





17 comments:

Julie P. said...

Just beautiful! I recently won LOST AND FOUND and am desperate to read it! So many books, so little time!

Zibilee said...

I have heard amazing things about this book, and the illustrations are just beautiful. This is something I need to read. It sounds like it's one of a kind, and I just can't ignore it anymore. Fantastic review, Sandy, and thanks for including all the illustrations!

Meg said...

I've been slowly delving more into the world of graphic novels, and it sounds like I definitely need to put this one on my wishlist! Love your descriptions, and how amazing that a book could provoke such an emotional response with absolutely no words or dialogue. Awesome!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I read this but I don't know why I didn't review it. His pictures are so amazing!

C.B. James said...

This is a wonderful book. In fact it's on one of my yearly top ten favorite reads lists. But it does raise two issues:

Since it has no text, did I really 'read' it? Just kidding. I do not want to go there.

Can you count it as a novel? I'm willing to go as far as calling it a short story, but isn't it really a children's picture book? Have you tried The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which is wonderful and would certainly count as a graphic novel.

Whatever, The Arrival is a wonderful book and everyone should 'read' it. You should also read his book Grandfather's Journey. Beautiful illustrations, wonderful story, made me cry.

Avid Reader said...

I'm completely with you on both graphic novels in general and this one in particular. I was skeptical of a wordless graphic novel, but the story is so clear and powerful and the illustrations are so detailed and beautiful, he didn't need words.

Alyce said...

I was surprised that this one was in the kids' section at our library, but I would guess that most people would take one look at it and assume it's just a picture book for kids, when it is so much more. I felt like I had to "read" it several times because there was so much detail in the imagery.

heidenkind said...

Looks fantastical and fun!

bermudaonion said...

Tan's books do have messages that would be difficult for children to grasp. The illustrations in that book look gorgeous - like you could frame them.

Jessica said...

I have this book and I was surprised to see it in the kids section of the library the other week. This prompted me to think if it is a kids book and I ended up thinkin that they would enjoy it on one level perhaps? It s a beautiful book though isnt it.

Jeane said...

This was such a lovely book! Even my husband (kind of a non-reader) and daughter (six years old) loved it. I want to read a bunch more Shaun Tan.

Jenners said...

I just read his collection of shorter stories but wonder if this would be more satisfying to me. And it really interests me that The Lost Thing won an Oscar!!

Trisha said...

Don't you just adore sepia tone? I do. I have no idea why, but I've always been floored by it.

Iliana said...

That artwork is just beautiful. You must read Tales From Outer Suburbia. It's so amazing.

I need to look for this one!

farmlanebooks said...

I still haven't got my hands on a Shaun Tan book, but I have seen them everywhere and know I'll love them. Hopefully I'll be able to experience one of his beautiful books soon.

Darlene said...

I've only had one of his books - Tales From Outer Suburbia and it was fantastic! I'm not one for graphic novels so that says a lot. I'd love to take a look see through this one too.

Melissa said...

I still haven't jumped on the graphic novel bandwagon, but these illustrations are amazing!