The arrival

Shaun Tan

Book - 2007

In this wordless graphic novel, a man leaves his homeland and sets off for a new country, where he must build a new life for himself and his family.

Saved in:

2nd Floor Comics Show me where

1 / 2 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor Comics GRAPHIC NOVEL/Tan Checked In
2nd Floor Comics GRAPHIC NOVEL/Tan Due Aug 17, 2023
Graphic novels
New York : Arthur A. Levine 2007.
1st ed
Physical Description
unpaged : chiefly ill. ; 31 cm
Main Author
Shaun Tan (-)
Review by New York Times Review

SOME of the most accomplished graphic novels in existence are never identified as such. Maurice Sendak's "In the Night Kitchen" comes to mind, as does Peggy Rathmann's "Good Night, Gorilla" and David Wiesner's recent Caldecott winner "Flotsam." Sendak, Rathmann and Wiesner are best known as children's book illustrators, but these particular works are pure comics in the way they construct their narratives. Shaun Tan's latest book could also end up tucked away with the picture books in bookstores. But it plainly acknowledges its medium by presenting quotations on its back cover from graphic-novel luminaries like Jeff Smith, Marjane Satrapi, Craig Thompson and Art Spiegelman. Tan has been walking the fine line between picture books and graphic novels for years now. "The Rabbits" (2003), written by John Marsden, has a fight montage that reads like a comic, using panels and captions to advance the action. And "The Lost Thing" (2004), both written and illustrated by Tan, could also be classified as a graphic novel. Although the story's prose bears almost all the narrative responsibility, the interplay between text and image, and the paneled layouts, foreshadow Tan's eventual headlong leap into the medium of comics. With "The Arrival," Tan the graphic novelist has finally arrived. "The Arrival" tells not an immigrant's story, but the immigrant's story. Its protagonist, a young father with vaguely Eurasian features, leaves his home to create a better life for his family in a distant land of opportunity. He struggles to find a job, a place to stay and a sense of meaning in his new existence. Along the way he befriends other, more established immigrants. He listens to their stories and benefits from their kindnesses. The young father reunites with his family as "The Arrival" draws to a close, and the distant land finally becomes home. By placing photorealistic human figures in abstract, surreal environments, Tan evokes the intimacy of an individual immigrant experience without ever settling on a specific person, time or place. His drawings depict architecture and clothing that are at once historic and futuristic. Shadowy dragons' tails haunt the Old Country, while the new land consists of structures and creatures that look like a 6-year-old's drawings brought to three-dimensional life. Tan even avoids pinning his story to a particular language. "The Arrival" is completely wordless. A system of incomprehensible yet eerily familiar symbols takes the place of words on signs and documents. Though Tan is a native-born Australian, an American ambience pervades his book. Even before the title page, he treats the reader to a full spread of small black-and-white portraits, depicting faces of every shape, age and color. Each pair of eyes projects the living lifelessness of passport photos. These are the mythic "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." When the protagonist finally makes his way to the shores of his new home, he is greeted by two giant statues, twin Statues of Liberty. He then sets up residence in a city that, though clearly fantastical (a white Pac-Man-like creature infests his apartment instead of cockroaches), resembles New York's historically ethnic neighborhoods. By borrowing American imagery to communicate an otherwise universal story, Tan highlights just how central the immigrant experience is to the way America defines itself. The cover of "The Arrival," made to look like old, worn leather, establishes a family photo album motif that Tan faithfully carries through the entire book. Inside, borderless sepia panels are arranged in careful grids. Creases and unidentifiable splotches elegantly blemish many of the pages. Tan completely eschews motion lines, sound effects and any other comics storytelling devices that would not be found in photographs. Even the spaces between the panels suggest a photo album: instead of the pencil-thin gutters found in most graphic novels, he uses generous half-inch strips of yellowed paper. The effect is mesmerizing. Reading "The Arrival" feels like paging through a family treasure newly discovered up in the attic. However, the sheer beauty of Tan's artwork sometimes gets in the way of his narrative. His panels, like the best photographs, capture the timelessness of particular moments, which can inadvertently endanger the illusion of time passing that a graphic novelist strives to create. "The Arrival" would almost rather be looked at than read. Still, that his biggest flaw is making his pictures too pretty speaks to Tan's skill as a storyteller. In one especially effective scene, the protagonist opens his suitcase to find a ghostly image of his wife and daughter eating dinner. A chair sits empty at the table, reserved for him. A moment later, the suitcase's actual contents replace the image. The protagonist pulls out a family portrait and nails it to the wall with his shoe. He sits back to contemplate it. A sequence of panels then carries the reader away from him and out the window, showing first his apartment building and finally his adopted city. The city teems with bubbling smoke, swirling highways and origami birds. The young father is lost, both in the quietness of his own memories and in the bustle of an alien land. Such visual eloquence can only motivate readers to seek out any future graphic novels from Shaun Tan, regardless of where they might be shelved. Gene Luen Yang's "American Born Chinese" was a finalist in 2006 for the National Book Award for Juvenile Fiction and winner of the Michael L. Printz Award.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [October 27, 2009] Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Recipient of numerous awards and nominations in Australia, The Arrival proves a beautiful, compelling piece of art, in both content and form. Tan (The Lost Thing, 2004) has previously produced a small body of off-kilter, frequently haunting stories of children trapped in surreal industrial landscapes. Here, he has distilled his themes and aesthetic into a silent, fantastical masterpiece. A lone immigrant leaves his family and journeys to a new world, both bizarre and awesome, finding struggle and dehumanizing industry but also friendship and a new life. Tan infuses this simple, universal narrative with vibrant, resonating life through confident mastery of sequential art forms and conventions. Strong visual metaphors convey personal longing, political suppression, and totalitarian control; imaginative use of panel size and shape powerfully depicts sensations and ideas as diverse as interminable waiting, awe-inspiring majesty, and forlorn memories; delicate alterations in light and color saturate the pages with a sense of time and place. Soft brushstrokes and grand Art Deco-style architecture evoke a time long ago, but the story's immediacy and fantasy elements will appeal even to readers younger than the target audience, though they may miss many of the complexities. Filled with subtlety and grandeur, the book is a unique work that not only fulfills but also expands the potential of its form.--Karp, Jesse Copyright 2007 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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 man's 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 man's 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 book's 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 4 Up-Sepia-toned panels and full spreads mimic a scrapbook design appropriate to this exploration of immigration. After a man leaves his family, fantasy and reality mingle to convey his emotional and physical states. Signs in an invented language help readers identify with his confusion. The search for meaning is fruitful. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Horn Book Review

(Middle School, High School) From a bleak, sunless city haunted by the threat of scaled and serpentine monsters, a man sets forth to seek a new life in a new land, leaving his wife and daughter behind. His steamship voyage with a host of refugees takes him to a strange shore indeed, a country with its own architecture, alphabet, technologies -- even the pets look different. It's the triumph of this lavish yet somberly monochromatic wordless book that readers are put right into the refugee's shoes: we're as out of place as he, learning the customs of the country in step with the protagonist. With him, for example, we figure out how to use the transport system, and once aloft in the steam-driven air-ferry, we sit alongside him as another passenger tells her own story of imprisonment and escape. Small, meticulously composed square panels, sometimes twelve to a page, move the action along while larger pictures and double-page spreads display surreally majestic cityscapes as well as scenes of the disaster and oppression that led the nameless protagonist and others to seek this welcoming land. Subtle shifts from gray to brown to golden tones underline the chiaroscuro of the story's themes; all is warm light when the man and his family are united once again. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book 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. Sepia-toned panels and turn-of-the-last-century dress and architecture seem to place readers in familiar territory--but fantastical images, including monumental cities, various bizarre forms of air transport and distinctly alien animals serve to unsettle both protagonist and readers, plunging the latter into the unsettling and often terrifying experience of being alone in a new land. Perhaps the most ingenious touch is the use of a newly created alien alphabet printed everywhere--on signs, official papers, maps, etc.--which renders the literate entirely helpless. Frightening this new land may be, but there are friends everywhere, from the other immigrants who help the protagonist and tell their own tales of escape from oppression, war and fear to the whimsical beastie who attaches itself to him as his pet. Small panels move the story along; full- and double-page spreads provide dazzling panoramas. It's an unashamed paean to the immigrant's spirit, tenacity and guts, perfectly crafted for maximum effect. (Graphic novel. 10+) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.