Great Illustrated Books

The Arrival

By Shaun Tan

Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007
Pages : 128
Suggested Ages: 11 and Up
ISBN: 9780439895293

When you first pick up this very brown and battered-looking wordless picture book graphic novel with the sepia-toned photograph on the cover, of a man in a suit and 1950s-style fedora, carrying an old suitcase, it looks like an old photo album you found up in your grandparents' attic. Then you look closer. What is that creature the man is contemplating? It's the size of a small white dog, but the head is part of the egg-shaped body, and there are no real feet—each of its four legs comes to a point, and it has a big upswept pointy tail and a huge opening for a mouth. It looks sort of like a benign walking fish. Open the book and leaf through the stained pages, some filled with little rows of sepia snapshots, and others with sweeping double-page landscapes. The uncaptioned pages follow the bittersweet journey of a poor man who leaves his wife and daughter behind to travel by train and then by ship to a marvelous new land. His old country seems to be infested with threatening, spiky-tailed serpents, but this wondrous new city is filled with imponderable wonders, including that small white creature which becomes the man's faithful pet. As an immigrant, he finds everything bewildering and unfamiliar: the transport by suspended telephone booth-sized boxes, the food, the architecture, and the language. Soon he meets and is befriended by other immigrants who tell him about the fear, war, and violence that sent them fleeing to this good new place. The man ultimately finds work, and in a hopeful ending, is reunited with his family.

This saga of one immigrant man trying to work out all the rules, customs, and differences of his new home is a stunning achievement, told entirely through pictures that look familiar and fantastical at the same time, just as this country must've looked to your ancestors when they got here. There's more to pore over and puzzle out in the meticulous illustrations than you may have the concentration to do, but your children, who are probably far more visually literate than you are, will figure out lots of it. Have them put into words a description of the new land, describing the architecture, housing, food, pets, animals, work, money, alphabet, customs, music, transportation, and recreation. Since the illustrations are all in shades of brown, perhaps they can draw a picture of what the city looks like in color. Tell your kids true stories of how your family members came to America and what they did when they got there.

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Applegate, Katherine. Home of the Brave. Feiwel & Friends, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0312367657

Avi. Silent Movie. Atheneum, 2003. ISBN-13: 978-0689841453

Freedman, Russell. Immigrant Kids. Dutton, 1980. ISBN-13: 978-0590465656

S�_s, Peter. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. Farrar, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0374347017

Tan, Shaun. The Lost Thing. Simply Read, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-1894965101

Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. Roaring Brook/First Second, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-1596433731

Critics have said

More sophisticated readers, however, will grasp the sense of strangeness and find themselves participating in the man's experiences. They will linger over the details in the beautiful sepia pictures and will likely pick up the book to pore over it again and again.
Alana Abbott, School Library Journal

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.
Jesse Karp, Booklist

Best of all, Tan has created a mesmerizing and mysterious "bookscape" in which readers young and old can wander again andagain, poring over details, elaborating events, fashioning narrative destinies, discovering new worlds.

The Barnes & Noble Review

Reading The Arrival feels like paging through a family treasure newly discovered up in the attic.
The New York Times, Gene Luen Yang