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:

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

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