The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Book Info
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
© 2007 Arthur A. Levine Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0439895293

Plot Summary
The Arrival is a striking wordless graphic novel that artfully illustrates a moving story surrounding a father’s commitment to his family. The small family of three lives in a town that is overcome by poverty and the story begins with the father embarking on a journey with only a small suitcase of belongings and a very small amount of currency in search of better financial prospects. He journeys by boat to a strange land with new and unusual architecture, customs, creatures and language. He is required to strategically figure out how to communicate with the people in this new place in order to find a lucrative job, a place to stay, and food to eat. He meets a number of interesting characters along the way, each with their own story to tell, and longs for the day he will be reunited with his wife and daughter.

Reader’s Annotation
Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is a stunning graphic novel that possesses the unique ability to tell a beautiful, creative and moving story through pictures alone.

Critical Evaluation
Having little experience with graphic novels to begin with and absolutely no experience with wordless graphic novels, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with The Arrival. I “read’ through the book a couple of times, keeping attention to detail and still had a hard time trying to interpret exactly what was being implied on each page. I finished the book with a basic idea of the story and I thoroughly enjoyed the artwork and magical creatures that were portrayed, but it wasn’t until I did further research and read other reviews that I felt like I really understood it all. I’m not sure if this is because of my age, my lack of experience with comic books, or if it really is just difficult to understand, but seeing how others were able to take things from the book that could look back and clearly see, I decided it was my own shortcoming. I would hope that teens who are more in tune with graphic novels would have an easier time.

Information about the Author
Shaun Tan was born in 1974 and grew up in the suburbs of Perth, a remote city on the coast of Western Australia. As a kid, there were few things he liked more than an opportunity to make something; drawing and painting things he saw around him, as well as monsters, space-ships, and writing and illustrating poems and story books about other worlds. Most of his practical artistic education came from good art classes in high school; beyond that, he doesn’t have much formal education in painting and drawing practice. He studied English and Fine Arts theory, history and criticism at the University of Western Australia, but eventually decided he wanted to try working as a painter or illustrator. He began by specializing in science fiction and fantasy subjects, initially for magazines, newspapers and books. He soon became involved with ‘pictures books for older readers’ through his contact with young adult writers and publishers, and now most of his time is spent as a writer and illustrator working within this medium. He’s also recently been involved with a number of theatre, film and animation projects, including work as a conceptual artist for Pixar.

His most widely published work, The Arrival , tells the story of a nameless man who must leave his family to seek a better life in a strange and distant land, all told in hundreds of wordless drawings. He am currently working on a collection of very short, whimsical stories called ‘Tales from Outer Suburbia’, about strange things happening in very ordinary places.

Visit the author’s website.

Graphic Novel, Wordless Graphic Novel, Steampunk

Curriculum Ties

Booktalking Ideas
Describe your initial interpretation of the story.

Discuss what it would be like to be in a foreign place where communication was difficult to impossible.

Reading Level/ Interest Age

Challenge Issues

Why Included?
I was intrigued by the concept of a wordless graphic novel and thought it would make a unique addition to my blog project.


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