Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

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The Arrival by Shaun Tan

on February 7, 2012

 Title: The Arrival

 Author: Shaun Tan

 Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books     Year:  2007

 ISBN -13: 978-0439895293

 Genre: Graphic Novel, Fiction

 Age: 12 and up

 Awards: 2006 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards Book of the Year ; 2006 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards Premier’s Prize ; 2007 Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year

 Themes / Subjects: Graphic Novel, social situations – immigration


Plot Summary:

From the School Library Journal

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 pour over it again and again.—Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

 My Take:

Normally I write my own plot summary but I found it exceptionally difficult with this book. This was my first experience “reading” a graphic novel and quite honestly, not the most pleasant experience. I expected to have to use my imagination to create the story based on the illustrations but without any prior knowledge of what it was supposed to be about I had no idea where the story was going. On Tan’s website he explains that in this book “the absence of any written description also plants the reader more firmly in the shoes of an immigrant character.” In my case, the absence of written description left me thoroughly confused. So I passed the book on to my eleven year old friend Josh. When he finished reading it, Josh turned to me and asked what is it about?

The illustrations are beautifully drawn and I understood that I was following the trials and travels of an immigrant, but the little alien creatures and strange language really threw me off. After reading the artist’s note at the end, I finally understood what the artists was trying to portray. With that said, I think the complexity of the story will go over many young kids heads, heck even older kids. This book is an excellent way for parents or educators to open up a discussion on immigration but I strongly suggest giving kids an idea of what they are about to read.

Rating: 1/5 stars … needs some sort of preface or text to help guide readers

Similar Read: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (“…not exactly a novel, and it’s not quite a picture book, and it’s not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things.” – from Brian Selznick’s website)


One response to “The Arrival by Shaun Tan

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