The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

My friend, who is training to be a primary school teacher, and has a special interest in graphic novels, said to me last year 'Have you read this book? You have to read it.' I took a look at some of the illustrations online, and the authors website, and she was right... I had to read it.
Told entirely in beautiful illustrations, this book tells the story of a husband and father having to leave his homeland to find work somewhere else, where the language and everything is totally different. Not only is he missing his family, but he is struggling to fathom this baffling new world, even to find or understand the basics to survive.
It is not only the lovely pictures that make this book attractive, but the whole feel of the book, hardback, but looking worn like an old book.
The story is moving and educational, and is certainly not just a book for children. Any age can get a lot from this book. I was particularly impressed by the way it conveys the confusion of displacement. Using fantasy to not only explain how the main character feels, but also making you feel lost so that you can appreciate how difficult it must be negotiating new places, customs and social systems.
The illustrations are pencil drawings in various shades of sepia, and many of the people or scenes are old fashioned. Our main protagonist (as seen on the cover above) looks like someone from the 1940's with Trilby and overcoat. A respectable family man in a guise that we all relate to.There is also a mechanical or industrial flavour to many of the scenes, and a highly original imaginative style throughout. There are large pictures taking up a whole page, and small pictures making up a montage of images that compliment the larger scenes and propelling the story forwards.
This is an ideal book to buy as a present. It looks beautiful and makes quite a talking point. It also carries important messages about belonging, and also about helping others who are struggling and establishing community. This is something that the author has first hand experience of, being half Chinese living in Australia, witnessing some prejudice to himself and his father, and also seeing the difficulties that the Aborigines have been subjected to over time.
I have not read many graphic novels. You may remember my review of The Invention Of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, another beautiful book, but I am fast becoming a fan, of their universal accessibility, and for their sheer beauty. The Arrival is a gorgeous book and comes highly recommended.
The Arrival has its own website, just use the link.
To see more of the illustrations and read the authors inspiration behind the book, use the link for Shaun Tan's website.
You can read others reviews about The Arrival on GoodReads, where the book repeatedly receives 4 or 5 star ratings.
Thank you to my friend for an excellent and memorable recommendation.


Jeane said...

This is a beautiful book. It is one of my favorite graphic novels. I am looking for more of the author's work. I liked it, my eight-year-old daughter liked it, even my non-reader husband liked it. So yes, I think it works well across all ages, with a powerful very well-illustrated message.

Meg Solley said...

Hi Leah,
My name is Meg and I run a site called I was looking for reviews of The Arrival to share on our site and I came across your post... If you're open to it, shoot me an email at meg(at)booknixie(dot)com.
Hope to hear from you soon!

Hay on Wye

Hay on Wye