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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.)
"Don't mistake this astonishing work by Australia's Shaun Tan for a picture book, even though it consists of nothing but pictures. At 128 pages, it's what could be called a pictorial novel, since the usual label — graphic novel — suggests more of a manga- or comic-style book, bristling with text. 'The Arrival,' which depicts a man driven by the dragon shadow of totalitarianism to leave his family... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) and immigrate to a fantastically strange, far-off country, contains not a word of dialogue — and the words that do appear, in letters, maps, books or signs, are invented, as if to mirror the experience of immigrants reduced to the status of illiterate deaf mutes by a new language. 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. Elizabeth Ward can be reached at warde(at symbol)washpost.com." Reviewed by Elizabeth Ward, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"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
"Magnificent." David Small, Caldecott Medalist
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. Young adult.
About the Author
Award-winning artist and author Shaun Tan has achieved international recognition for his work, including the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award for this book, an Honor Book Award for Memorial (with G. Crew) and The Lost Thing, an APA Design Award, an Honorable Mention at the Bologna Book Fair, three Aurealis Awards, and Spectrum Gold and Silver Awards. In 2001 he was named best artist at the World Fantasy Awards in Montreal. A graduate of the University of Washington in 1995, with honors in fine arts and English literature, he lives in Perth, Australia.
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