Monday, June 08, 2009

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan




Now this is one extraordinary book! Shaun Tan's wordless novella/picture book, The Arrival, is absolutely, positively one of my new favorites. I'm a sucker for wordless books in general...David Wiesner's Tuesday comes to mind first. However, The Arrival is infinitely more complicated and far more artfully illustrated.

It's the story of a man who leaves his wife and daughter in a nameless "old country" as he sets out in search of a better life for them elsewhere. He has a handful of money in a strange land teeming with weird creatures, indecipherable language, and he has to find employment amidst all the chaos. He doesn't understand the food, the communication, or the local customs, but along the way he meets kind strangers who help him get acclimated to his new environment, and the reader is able to experience small snippets of their pasts as well.

Obviously Tan's artwork is the star here. He weaves a delightful tale with nothing but his pencil drawings, and they are truly beautiful. I was swept away by the images of the man's new city--at once spacey and elegantly curvy. The whole book had an otherworldly quality to it, and I just can't put into words here how affecting it was.



This is one illustration example from the book: a view of the harbor where the man arrives in his new world.

This is one of those books I'm itching to teach because it puts such an interesting and surprising spin on an old type of tale. The Arrival is an immigrant tale, and one that I find refreshing for its ability to put the reader into the immigrant's place. We have to struggle to put the parts of the man's new life together right along with him. It's really a great feat on Tan's part that he can create such a vivid and touching story exclusively through artwork.

I can't wait to get my hands on some of his other stuff...namely Tales from Outer Suburbia. If you're interested in seeing more of Tan's work, check out his super-fab website: http://www.shauntan.net

I'll be counting this one for My Year of Reading Dangerously since it's such a unique book.

16 comments:

  1. I don't think I've read a wordless book in years, but those illustrations look so gorgeous that I want to now.

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  2. Bermudaonion, it's really a fantastic book. I dare say, visually stunning!

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  3. I've heard a lot about this book and I sounds SOOOO good. I'm writing it in my Moleskine right now, "BUY The Arrival ASAP."

    I've never read a wordless book before - at least not since before I could read - and this seems like a great place to start.

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  4. Isn't it amazing what Tan can do with just a picture? He can invoke more emotion with a pencil stroke than some can with a thousand words. Wait until you read Tales from Outer Suburbia; you'll be amazed at what he can do when he adds words to the mix. He's so amazingly talented. Just love him.

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  5. very interesting. I'm going to have to look for this one. it looks fascinating!

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  6. Beautiful pictures, but I'm not much into wordless books!! BUT I have Tales from Outer Suburia on my MUST read list!

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  7. I really need to explore more by him. I have only experienced The Red Tree so far. And, I really like David Wiesner too. :)

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  8. Wow, that looks fabulous. Thanks for the terrific review, Andiloo!

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  9. I wish I had more time to investigate this whole wordless book. looks very, very cool!

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  10. I loved this one too, and Tales of Outer Suburbia is just as good! :D

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  11. This was my favourite book that I read a couple of years ago. It felt very strange to say that the best book of the year was one without words, but it was just so awesome that it was far and away above the other books I read that year.

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  12. Shaun Tan is amazing - you have to read his book The Red Tree - it is definitely my favourite.

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  13. I'm so glad you brought this book to my attention. It reminds me of Grandfather's Journey by Allan Say, which I love reading to the class because of its Japanese connection. But, this one looks like another wonderful addition to our immigration unit. I loved the pictures you showed, too. Thanks!

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  14. I'm intrigued! I've never read a wordless book before, so I'll have to add this to my TBR list!

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  15. Great review! I love the illustrations in Tan's books. They have so much detail it's amazing.

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  16. I have seen this book and actually scanned the pages...It's just so amazing...His drawings paint a thousand words...It encourages you to draw the story on your own with his pictures as guidance...This is a MUST read...or should I say...a MUST seen book...!

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