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The Arrivalby Shaun Tan
Shaun Tan, one of my favorite children's book illustrators, draws upon hundreds of years worth of immigrant stories to tell this single but universal tale: one of alienation, magic, and bravely bearing the wonderful and frightening strangeness of a new country. A rare and beautiful work.
Synopses & Reviews
In a heartbreaking parting, a man gives his wife and daughter a last kiss and boards a steamship to cross the ocean. He's embarking on the most painful yet important journey of his life — he's leaving home to build a better future for his family.
Shaun Tan evokes universal aspects of an immigrant's experience through a singular work of the imagination. He does so using brilliantly clear and mesmerizing images. Because the main character can't communicate in words, the book forgoes them too. But while the reader experiences the main character's isolation, he also shares his ultimate joy.
"With this haunting, wordless sequence about a lonely emigrant in a bewildering city, Tan (The Lost Thing) finds in the graphic novel format an ideal outlet for his sublime imagination. Via pencil illustrations that resemble sepia photographs or film cels, Tan depicts a man's poignant departure from his wife and daughter. Stark stone houses, treeless streets and rustic kitchen appliances imply past eras — the man leaves home via an outmoded locomotive and steamship — but strange visuals reveal this is not our everyday world. Shadowy dragon tails trawl the sky of the mans homeland, suggesting pogrom or famine, and when he arrives at an Ellis Island-style port (the endpapers depict passport photos of multicultural travelers), his documents are stamped with cryptic symbols. He gets aboard an unmanned hot-air balloon that delivers him to a vast metropolis with unfamiliar customs and bizarre technologies (imagine, perhaps, a Gehry-designed city). Tan offers no written explanations on this foreign space, so readers fully grasp the mans confusion when he lands a job pasting posters, then hangs them upside-down until his employer corrects him. Readers also understand his empathy for other exiles (each with their tragic stories of immigration) and with a friendly family that invites him to a meal of the local produce, which resembles exotic anemonae. In an oddly charming touch, each person has a distinctive animal companion, reminiscent of Philip Pullman's daemons or Hieronymus Bosch's alchemical creations. The man receives his own creature, a creepy-cute white monster with an egg-shaped torso, huge mouth and waving, eel-like tail; initially repulsed, he slowly warms to its amiable disposition. Just as gradually, his melancholy gives way to optimism and community as, despite setbacks, he benefits from the kindness of strangers. Tan adeptly controls the books pacing and rhythm by alternating a gridlike layout of small panels, which move the action forward, with stirring single- and double-page spreads that invite awestruck pauses. By flawlessly developing nuances of human feeling and establishing the enigmatic setting, he compassionately describes an immigrant's dilemma. Nearly all readers will be able to relate — either through personal or ancestral experience — to the difficulties of starting over, be it in another country, city, or community. And few will remain unaffected by this timeless stunner. Ages 12-up." (Oct.) Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A shockingly imaginative graphic novel that captures the sense of adventure and wonder that surrounds a new arrival on the shores of a shining new city. Wordless, but with perfect narrative flow, Tan gives us a story filled with cityscapes worthy of Winsor McCay." Jeff Smith, author of Bone
"A magical river of strangers and their stories!" Craig Thompson, author of Blankets
"Filled with both subtlety and grandeur, the book is a unique work that not only fulfills but also expands the potential of its form." Booklist, starred review
"An astonishing wordless graphic novel blends historical imagery with science-fiction elements to depict — brilliantly — the journey of an immigrant man from his terror-beset land of origin to a new, more peaceful home....It's an unashamed paean to the immigrant's spirit, tenacity and guts, perfectly crafted for maximum effect." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Considering the terror that fuels debates about immigration throughout the western world, Tan's message is pointed and utterly relevant, not just to teens struggling with their own feelings of alienation, but to all humankind. It is an absolutely marvelous book." Voice of Youth Advocates
"One of Australia's premier artists explores the immigrant experience in a wordless graphic novel. Along with the protagonist, readers enter a new country — with everything appearing bizarre and surreal. It's one of those rare books that speak on different levels to readers ages 9 to 90." Boston Globe, Pick of the Week
"A wordless tour de force" Time Out New York Kids
"Don't mistake this astonishing work by Australia's Shaun Tan for a picture book, even though it consists of nothing but pictures....Hundreds of sepia-toned drawings, some tiny, some panoramic, all pulsing with detail, combine to produce an effect reminiscent of silent movies or mime, the absence of words forcing the eye and the brain to work harder. The Arrival is neck-and-neck with Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret for most original children's book of 2007, but unlike that uneven effort, it's definitely not just for the young." The Washington Post
"Tan's fictional newfound land is overwhelmingly glamorous, alien, and plausible, conveying culture shock in a way that straightforward historical chronicles simply can't manage. This could electrify a curriculum, provoke conversation if shared within a family, or simply bring a reader a startling new way of seeing a familiar story." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review
In this wordless graphic novel, Tan captures the struggles and joy of the immigrant experience through clear, mesmerizing images which tell the story of a man who leaves his homeland and his family to build a better life.
About the Author
Shaun Tan is the author and illustrator of the award-winning, bestselling graphic novel The Arrival, and also Tales from Outer Suburbia, a collection of illustrated short stories. Both books were named to the New York Times list of Best Illustrated Children's Books. He won an Oscar for his short film "The Lost Thing" based on a story in the book Lost & Found: Three by Shaun Tan, and he is also the recipient of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Shaun Tan lives in Melbourne, Australia.
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