The Arrival

By Shaun Tan

Transcendent artwork captures the struggles and the joy of the immigrant experience. In a heartbreaking parting, a man gives his wife and daughter a last kiss and boards a steamship. He's embarking on the most difficult journey - he's leaving home to build a better future for his family. In this wordless graphic novel, Shaun Tan captures the immigrant experience through clear, mesmerizing images. The reader enters a strange new world, participating in the main character's isolation - and ultimately his joy.

Praise for The Arrival:

"Anyone who thinks that the graphic novel is no more than a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon, ought to take a look at The Arrival. This magnificent work not only establishes itself in a major new literary genre but raises the stakes for anyone seriously considering working in it. Born of dreams and history, it is a story that seems to have been living in the depths of our unconscious; Shaun Tan reached deep down and brought it into the light." - David Small, Caldecott Medalist for So You Want to Be President?

"The Arrival is beautiful. I loved how it slowly dawned on me that this bizarre world was how any immigrant might see the new place they go... Everything is different and scary and magical. The drawings are just so lovely, endlessly details and wonderfully strange. Bravo." - Brian Selznick, author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Reviews and Awards

2006 Cybils Award
Bologna Ragazzi Award, Special Mention
Spectrum Award
Junior Library Guild Selection
World Fantasy Artist of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2007
A New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2007's Best Teen Book of 2007
2007 Parents' Choice Gold Award
A Book Sense Winter 2007-2008 Top Ten Children’s Pick
A New York Public Library Best Book for Reading and Sharing
A New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2007
Rocky Mountain News, A Top Ten Book of the Year
The Columbus Dispatch, A Best Book of 2007
Booklist Editors' Choice 2007
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2007
A Washington Post Best Book for Young People for 2007
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon for Fiction
ALA Notable Children's Book, 2008
ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, 2008
ALA Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2008
Horn Book Fanfare Book 2007
Metropolitan Home Magazine's Design 100, 2008
An IRA Notable Book for a Global Society, 2008
2008 Locus Award, Best Art Book
2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, special citation for excellence in graphic storytelling
CCBC Choices 2008
Nominated for an International Horror Guild Award, Illustrated Narrative
New York Public Library’s 100 Best Children’s Books from the Last 100 Years
New South Wales Premier's Literary Award

⋆ "Recipient of numerous awards and nominations in Australia, The Arrival proves a beautiful, compelling piece of art, in both content and in 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 powerfullydepicts 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 brush strokes and grand art deco 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 both subtlety and grandeur, the book is a unique work that not only fulfills but also expands the potential of its form." - Booklist, starred 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." - Kirkus Reviews, starred 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." - Publishers Weekly, starred review

⋆ "Tan captures the displacement and awe with which immigrants respond to their new surroundings in this wordless graphic novel. It depicts the journey of one man, threatened by dark shapes that cast shadows on his family’s life, to a new country. The only writing is in an invented alphabet, which creates the sensation immigrants must feel when they encounter a strange new language and way of life. A wide variety of ethnicities is represented in Tan’s hyper-realistic style, and the sense of warmth and caring for others, regardless of race, age, or background, is present on nearly every page. Young readers will be fascinated by the strange new world the artist creates, complete with floating elevators and unusual creatures, but may not realize the depth of meaning or understand what the man’s journey symbolizes. 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." - School Library Journal, starred review

⋆ "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." - Horn Book, starred review

“A father must leave his family in a devastated land with only a slim hope that he will be able to gain employment in a bizarre and beautiful city across the sea. Stunning, powerful, gripping, moving-Tan's book is meticulously thought out and perfectly wrought, making use of both high-brow surrealism and extensive research into photographic records of immigrant stories. The story alternately displays Tan's heartfelt understanding of the dislocated existence of immigrants and his robustly imagined fantasy setting. The oversized book moves effortlessly from sepia-toned, quasi-photographic panels of heartbreak to double-page spreads of startling depth and creativity. The crafting is perfect, as panel sequences communicate action wordlessly, using, for example, a long series of cloudscapes to explain the tedious passage of time. But this cunning, careful artwork does not preclude the persistent throb of human warmth. Repeatedly the story tells of determination, of survival in hopeless times, of unexpected kindnesses, and always, always of love. Especially touching is Tan's imaginary population. In the bizarre cityscape he has imagined, every single person is an immigrant. In this world, the natives are the immigrants. Considering the terror that fuels debates about immigration throughout the western world, Tan's message is pointed and utterly relevant, not just to teens struggling with their own feelings of alienation, but to all humankind. It is an absolutely marvelous book.” - Voice of Youth Advocates

"One of Australia's premier artists explores the immigrant experience in a wordless graphic novel. Along with the protagonist, readers enter a new country - with everything appearing bizarre and surreal. It's one of those rare books that speak on different levels to readers ages 9 to 90." - Boston Globe, Pick of the Week

⋆ "In this exquisite tale of imaginatively mastered fantasy, a father, faced with monsters in his homeland, immigrates to a new land to try to carve out a better life for his family. . . . This spectacular wordless graphic novel may seem deceptively simple and childlike, though inside lays a conceptually rich and innovative story. The fantastical setting is a wonder for the eye, full of extremely odd and whimsical (and at times disturbing) beings and settings, bringing the reader along with the protagonist in discerning his new environment. Tan's sepia-toned illustrations are fastidious and striking, conveying a complex and thought provoking story that demands multiple readings and would stimulate classroom discussion. If a library is to buy but one graphic novel this year, this is an excellent candidate; an absolute must-have for all school and public collections." - KLIATT, starred review

"A wordless tour de force" - Time Out New York Kids

"Don't mistake this astonishing work by Australia's Shaun Tan for a picture book, even though it consists of nothing but pictures.... Hundreds of sepia-toned drawings, some tiny, some panoramic, all pulsing with detail, combine to produce an effect reminiscent of silent movies or mime, the absence of words forcing the eye and the brain to work harder. The Arrival is neck-and-neck with Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret for most original children's book of 2007, but unlike that uneven effort, it's definitely not just for the young." - The Washington Post

⋆"Shaun Tan not only makes the old immigration story new again, he also ingeniously puts the reader in the immigrant’s position to give the experience an immediacy one would have thought impossible to obtain from a fictional exploration. . . . Tan turns this classic story into an imaginative as well as a visual tour de force by making the elements of the immigrant’s new country as strange, fantastical, and incomprehensible to the reader as to the new arrival.... Tan’s fictional newfound land is overwhelmingly glamorous, alien, and plausible, conveying culture shock in a way that straightforward historical chronicles simply can’t manage. This could electrify a curriculum, provoke conversation if shared within a family, or simply bring a reader a startling new way of seeing a familiar story." - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

“Tan’s graphic novel is what genius looks like…. A modern masterpiece, and one that every kid should read.” - Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series

Purchase Options
Indiebound • Scholastic Store • Amazon • Barnes & Noble

Fall 2007
Graphic Novel
ISBN: 0-439-89529-4
Price: $19.99/$24.99
Trim Size: 8 3/4" x 11 3/4"
Page Count: 128
Foreign Rights: Lothian
Translation Rights: Lothian
Rights Available? yes

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