The Arrival

by Shaun Tan

Hardcover, 2007




New York : Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007.


In this wordless graphic novel, a man leaves his homeland and sets off for a new country, where he must build a new life for himself and his family.

Media reviews

Teos on todellakin yhtä kaunis ja yhtä upeaa kuvakerrontaa kuin muistinkin. Sanoja ei tarvita, eikä niillä ole tässä tarinassakaan mitään sijaa. The Arrival kertoo aivan uskomattoman kouriintuntuvasti maahanmuutosta ja vieraan kulttuurin piirissä elämään oppimisesta.
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Jurybegründung "...Auf beeindruckende Weise gelingt es ihm, literarische Techniken wie Vor- und Rückblenden, Zeitdehnung und Zeitraffung sowie innere Monologe visuell umzusetzen. Wie seine Hauptfigur im neuen Land wird auch der Betrachter des Buches „gezwungen“, neu sehen zu lernen."

User reviews

LibraryThing member keristars
This is a wonderful book. There is no text to be read — and where there might be words, all are written in an alien script — but any text would take away from the captivating, imaginative illustrations.

There is a lot to be said about The Arrival as an object, from the design of the front cover to the detail of the internal pages, where many have faux waterstains or creases. The illustrations (pencil or charcoal drawings) are rendered in sepia or grey tones, which combined with the other qualities of the book, give it an old, antique feel. This works really well in combination with the fantasy setting of the story itself.

Really, though, I can't praise Tan's illustrations enough. He has done a wonderful job with the pacing of them, as some sequences draw out a particular movement, or else move quickly through a series of movements, which helps augment the tone of the story in those places. There is variation in whether the hues of the pages are sepia toned, pure grey monochrome, or a middle ground, too, which sets the mood - some of the loneliest or worst images lack any coloring, while golden sepia colors make others even more happy and heartwarming.

And then there are the people and buildings - so much variety in the characters! It looks like Tan used photographs of specific people in different poses for his illustrations, they're so precise and photo-realistic, but the setting is pure imagination. This mixture keeps the story character-based, but the fantasy setting helps the reader empathise with the main character, who is an emigrant to a foreign land (likewise, the lack of words except in alien gibberish helps with the feeling of not understanding the language).

I found myself immersed in the story and read many pages several times over - the illustrations are so powerful, even, that I couldn't bear to look at the handful of depictions of why other emigrants had left their homes. And the ending had me almost feeling like I wanted to cry, it was so beautiful.

I can't recommend this book enough! It's such a gorgeous, wonderful work of art that to miss it is a shame. In fact, I borrowed it from the library, but I'm probably going to end up buying a copy for myself so I can have the pleasure of rereading it at my leisure.
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LibraryThing member writestuff
The Arrival by Shaun Tan has no words, but it tells a powerful story. Beautiful black and white and sepia toned art work illustrate the experience of an immigrant and his family (wife and daughter). He leaves their homeland first, arriving at his destination after 60 days of a ship voyage. He is processed by immigration officials and finds himself unable to speak or read the language of his new home. He meets other immigrants who share their stories with him and offer him help. It takes a while for him to find work in order to be able to send for his family to join him, but eventually he is reunited with them.

Not only is The Arrival a moving expose of the immigrant experience, but it is a feast for the eyes. Shaun Tan’s art is detailed, magical and emotional. He captures the expressions and feelings of his characters with ease.

Because Tan never specifically identifies where the immigrant comes from and where he ends up, this story becomes one of the universal nature of what it means to arrive in a new country where language, culture, and geography are a puzzle to be figured out. Despite surreal architecture and environment, Tan creates a landscape that also feels historical.

I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, but it is books like this one which make me wonder why I don’t…although I would classify The Arrival as a cross between a child’s picture book and a graphic novel.

Shaun Tan was born in Australia and is the award winning illustrator of several children’s books. The Arrival won the “Book of the Year” prize as part of the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards, and the Children’s Book Council of Australia “Picture Book of the Year” award in 2007.

I would eagerly read more books by Shaun Tan.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member Carmenere
The Arrival is an amazing graphic novel concerning people, perhaps similar to your own ancestor’s, who left everything behind to travel to a new country in the hopes of forging better lives for their families. Not a word is written in this novel but the illustrations could be from your photo albums, black, grey and white, yellowed with age. They are the images you may have created in your mind’s eye when your parents told you the stories of your grandparents coming to America or in the case of this book, Australia. Author ShaunTan expresses this young father’s confusion and frustration with vivid imagery. The reader shares in the immigrant’s confusion by not being able to interpret the writing on the walls, the labels slapped upon his chest nor the buildings in this unfamiliar city. When friendly faces befriend the young man we all become more at ease. We are all safe, we are all……home.
Everyone will take something different away from this visual tale. As for me, I feel it reminds the reader that everyone holds a story within and we are all in this chaotic world together, might as well lend a helping hand.
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LibraryThing member booksandwine
The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a wordless graphic novel about a man who immigrates to another country in order to obtain and forge a better life for his family.One thing that struck me about The Arrival was how imaginative it is. The art is beautiful and so creative. The world pictured in this book is not our world. There are different types of creatures which resemble pets, different sorts of buildings. I loved it! I wonder if these imaginings fall under steampunk or not?To further elaborate on the pictures, I thought they were deeply emotional. The feelings just crawl off the page. When the main character is missing his family, you don't need to read words to understand, it's all in the picture.I thought the lack of words lends to the universality of this book. Pictures are something any human can understand, unless of course you are blind.… (more)
LibraryThing member GingerbreadMan
A man leaves his sinister home to try and find a better future for himself and his family. He arrives in a strange city in a strange land, where everything is completely different than he’s used to: architecture, letters, numbers, animals, food, even means of transportation. There he tries to create a new life.

Really, there isn’t that much to say about this dreamlike and utterly gorgeous wordless graphic novel about leaving home and finding a new one. You need to see Shaun Tan’s wonderfully strange landscapes, achingly human details and gentle storytelling for yourself in order to get it. And make sure you do. The word “masterpiece” is seldom this appropriate.… (more)
LibraryThing member mks27
The Arrival is a graphic novel/wordless picture book that amazingly speaks volumes about the immigrant experience.

The illustrations resemble the aged, black and white photographs carried from one life to the next by the immigrants of years past. Tan varies the presentation and layout of each page to create emphasis and impact. In this way and more, much about his characters are communicated. Many focus on small bits such as a face at a crucial moment, hands, the back of the head, or a distant view in silhouette. Each image is moving and highly personal. There is very little color, sepia tones, grays, tans and this adds to the mood and feel of the book. The faces, the small expressions and gestures, of each individual speak eloquently and beautifully. What a treat they all are, each and every one.

The plot is complicated, which is no small task in this format. The main plot involves the immigrant experience of one man and, as you go along, sub-plots develop which tell the immigrant story of those he connects with and who help him become familiar with his new surroundings. The setting is surreal and completely foreign to the reader, evoking the sensation of arriving in a place where all is unknown. The characters are heartbreakingly human in every way and wear all they think, feel, and experience on their faces and in their bodies. The fantastical creatures and settings are just a pleasure.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves graphic novels, is interested in the immigrant experience, or who enjoys beautiful stories told in pictures. Indeed, for anyone thinking of trying a graphic novel for the first time, this might be a good place to start.
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LibraryThing member WaxPoetic
I was totally unprepared for this book, and found that when I finished it, I wanted nothing more than to begin in it again. It has become a book that I give as a gift to beloveds, and it has struck everyone who has read it.

The story without pictures encourages a very different way of engaging. There is so much space for thinking of the noises of the world, the smells of it, the voices of the people. It is in many ways overpowering, perhaps because it is so alien to most of us who have not read a "picture book" since we were able to comprehend script and letters.

Shaun Tan makes good visual decisions and good story-telling decisions. He uses a plot that is familiar to many: the arrival of an immigrant in a new place. That familiarity encouraged a level of comfort in me as reader, which meant that I paid much closer attention to where my eyes went on the page, what the lines did, and the time that it took to absorb an image. Because of that I have begun to seek out other 'stories without words' although I fear they are sadly lacking on the adults shelves.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
I know I'm in the minority, but I found this graphic novel confusing. The illustrations and art work were incredibly beautiful, but following the story seemed difficult.

It took a lot of time and energy to figure the story line. The illustrative tale seemed to jump around from frame to frame.
LibraryThing member butler41600
Tells a huge story. Without words. This is a very creative book which really stretches your imagination. A man moves to a new land where everything is strange and different, he meets people who also tell their story about fitting in.
LibraryThing member EBT1002
This graphic novel is beautiful and warrants at least two reads. Told completely without words, it is the universal story of immigration to a strange new land in search of a better life. Whimsical, at times terrifying or tragic, and immensely creative, I recommend this work of art to anyone willing to set aside preconceived notions of what the graphic novel can do to touch our deepest emotional selves.… (more)
LibraryThing member jolerie
The Arrival is a breathtaking experience without words. The pictures alone are enough to convey the message of finding one's place in the world. An immigrant's journey of finding a semblance of home in a strange place is not unlike each of our own desire to find a sense of belonging in our wanderings and explorations. The artwork is stunning, the story universal. The Arrival is truly a gem among the genre of graphic novels. A definite must read or anyone who is interested in immersing themselves in the beauty of drawings, and the complexity of storytelling without the need to utter a single word.… (more)
LibraryThing member HardenB
It was basically the story of a man who immigrated to a new country where he did not speak the language or know any of their customs. The story follows him as he slowly learns how to live in that country, and is finally able to send for his family. At the very end of the book, the man’s daughter is helping a new immigrant.

I did not particularly like this book. I have read graphic novels in the past that I liked, but those had at least some words. I do not mind the formatting of a graphic novel; I think that actually gives the reader a more accurate idea of how the characters feel. Personally, I like it to have at least a few words, though. I found some pages kind of confusing, even though I could understand the general idea.… (more)
LibraryThing member camcleod
This wordless picture book tells the story of an immigrant's arrival in A Very Strange Land. Strange technology and even stranger creatures become a part of his daily life as he awaits the day when his wife and daughter will finally join him. The stories of other immigrants are laced through the book as well - poignant stories of loss and hope.… (more)
LibraryThing member pbailey1980
A book that ultimately, to me, is about immigration and the American dream. However, it touches on many different themes. War for example, part of the story is reminiscent of the second world war. Connection can be made to the fictional history told in the book and our own world's history. What was most interesting to me was the fact that none of the words were written in any language known on Earth. This gives the true feeling of what it is like to be trying to make it in a foreign land where you don't even know the language. This book is great for depicting the struggles and dreams of immigrants from all cultures to all cultures.… (more)
LibraryThing member countrylife
I don't remember ever reading a graphic novel before, but, WOW, this was excellent! The drawings were stunning; the story compelling and life-like, even though set in a fantastical time and place. It is the old story – during hard times, one member of the family leaves to find work. The immigrant misses his family, and faces the hardship of not understanding language or custom in his new surroundings. He encounters the kindness of strangers, who share their own immigrant story and help him to find lodging and work. Seasons pass, strangers become friends, and he is finally able to send for his family. The author did a marvelous job of portraying many ethnicities and cultures converging in the new world, most helpful to newcomers, who themselves learn and help others. Beautiful!… (more)
LibraryThing member heterotopic
With all the raving reviews in amazon, I was excited to get a copy, but couldn't really believe how a picture book-cum-graphic novel could evoke such emotions as described by the readers/reviewers. But the pictures blew me away; loneliness and fear were carefully brought out in the geometric figures; surreal landscapes evoke a feeling of awe and wonder, and while the pictures looked vintage, they were also futuristic, or even apocalyptic; stunning images which sear your mind. It perfectly captures the "immigrant", but everyone can relate, as everyone has been a traveller at some point in his/her life. This book, in a way, shows how, as travellers, it is really ourselves we hope to find in the end.… (more)
LibraryThing member francescadefreitas
This wordless story is incredibly powerful and moving. A man sets off on a long voyage to a strange country - where he does not recognise the food, speak the language, or appear to have any value. Tan's pictures of strange vegetables, pets, and alphabets give an strong sense of what it must feel like to be somewhere utterly foreign, alien to your past experience. The loneliness of being separated from family and culture is made clear, and is easy to identify with - and the glimmers of understanding, the little things that might be found in common, and the stories that can be shared through gestures and expression alone are all conveyed here. By telling us a story without words, Tam show us the story of a man forced to make friends and a life all without understanding any words around him. The emigrant faces on the endpapers are a reminder that this is not fiction, but a common experience of human beings around the world.… (more)
LibraryThing member elmyra
Paul bought this a few weeks ago, on a weekend when I was feeling particularly moody and emotional, so I didn't read it at the time. I knew it was going to make me cry regardless, and I thought I had better wait until I could actually cope with it.

And make me cry it did. I've been there. Those stories are my story. From the faceless immigration procedures ('I'm sorry, but your visa is not valid until midnight. You cannot enter the country for another three hours.'), to watching my father leave to start a new job somewhere far away from home, in the hope that we would be able to join him soon (twice, no, three times), to going around the supermarket, marvelling at everything and wondering which bits were edible and which weren't (fruit yoghurt!?), to the first dinner my Dad cooked for us once we had joined him (I will always remember it), to not speaking a word of the local language (but blagging it nonetheless), to the kindness - and sometimes otherwise - of strangers. I've been there.

This book is amazing. Without a single word, only with pictures - beautifully drawn, wonderfully expressive - it captures the story of migration. Everyone who has ever upped sticks in search of a better life in a foreign place will find themselves reflected in these pages, and it is done beautifully, compassionately, with great skill and understanding. It is clearly a labour of love.
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LibraryThing member compjohn
A considerable achievement but a somehow arch and irksome one. In a graphic novel with no text, Tan presents the story of an immigrant from what seems to be a Mitteleuropische country to a New World resembling New York. Tan presents these two worlds as somehow familiar—the time appears to be just after the First World War here on earth--but also alien. Strange unearthly creatures, such as a dog that resembles a sperm with legs and huge steampunkish robots appear in the sepia-toned images. Where this work fails is in the presentation of both worlds as alien. If the idea is the disorientation of the immigrant in a totally new environment, then shouldn’t the reader get a sense of that disorientation? If there are giant killer robots in Bizarro Bohemia, what’s so special about sperm dogs in Alternate America? If disorientation is NOT the theme, then the book just smacks of a frankly masturbatory “darklingness.” Still, fans of graphic novels and teen/young adult readers may find the images compelling and eerie.… (more)
LibraryThing member snat
Heartbreaking and beautiful. How inventive to tell an entire story without words and yet that story is perhaps more rich for what it seems to lack. I particularly love the series of thumbnail pictures demonstrating the father's attempts to communicate with inspection officials after first arriving in his new homeland. The last three in the series are haunting and speak volumes about his frustration and pain. Also, love the incorporation of fantasy into the immigrant experience. Wonderful book.… (more)
LibraryThing member MandyLCollins
Shaun Tan's book "The Arrival" is a picture book that contains no words. I was shocked at the difficulty of this book due to the lack of guidance from image to image and what they represented. I understood the concept that the father had to leave his family to travel somewhere; however, I never understood where he was going. He faces challenges of communication and struggles to find a job once he arrives to his destination. Although the book contains only images, I was informed today that it is actually considered a graphic novel instead of a picture book due to the white lines that separate each image. I would not recommend this book to anyone. The storyline is difficult to follow and it is not very entertaining. I believe it would be extremely hard to make lesson plans using this book as the center of the activites. The lack of words and definite plot divides it from other books that would be more beneficial in the classroom.… (more)
LibraryThing member eleanor_eader
I love what Shaun Tan does with words. He removes them, and then gives them back to us in a new way.

The arrival is beautifully drawn – not just the pages, but the emotions and the surreal, intuited understanding of the unfolding tale. It’s a story about immigration and separation and it works on many levels. The ‘reader’ is in a strange country; there is no text, no language except a new visual landscape, which, for our delight, is full of small mascot-like pets and the intriguing artefacts of this charming and evocative new world.

I don't really want to write a review of this book: I want to draw you a picture.
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LibraryThing member Gold_Gato
How can one resist a book with cover art so extraordinary it calls to you from the bookshop window? This graphic novel about arriving in a strange world, as an immigrant, is gorgeous and enlightening.

As each page turned, I realized I was reading about myself and my family. The boat from Europe to Australia, because we couldn't afford airfare. The arrival in a strange country where animals had pouches and hopped around on two legs. Trying to learn English, but really just picking up Strine (Aussie English). Inhaling the smell of potato cakes and meat pies, walking around with chippies in a cone of newspaper. Avoiding the venomous jellyfish at the beach, surfing past sharks at sunset. The efforts to gain citizenship. My family repeated the experience when we moved to the States, which was just as mind-boggling (volcanos, pineapples, fog, earthquakes, Americans). This is the first book that I've ever read that truly defines the experience, but as a silent picture in freefall.

Really rather breathtaking.

Book Season = Summer (when the world's population begins rotating)
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LibraryThing member Kellswitch
The artwork in this book is simply stunning, beautiful, though provoking and exquisitely detailed. I loved the use of sepia tones to give it a more old fashioned and yet timeless feel.
No words were needed to tell this story and in fact I feel they would have gotten in the way and weakened the overall effect. When I started the book I had no idea what the story was, I chose it based solely on the quality of the artwork as I flipped through it, so it was a pleasure to try and guess the story just from the images rather than starting with a preconceived idea of what was going on.
This is an absolutely beautiful book.
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LibraryThing member TeriHogg
Imagine a wordless story from a time long ago; a man from a far away place, leaving his wife and daughter, and migrating to a new country. Shaun Tan brilliantly illustrates “The Arrival” through a movie-still like sequence of surrealistic drawings arranged much like an old family photo album. Each picture depicts with raw emotion a man’s fear and anxiety arriving in a strange land, with strange customs, language, buildings, animals, and food. As he struggles to find a place to live, to work, and eat, an odd creature becomes his companion. The cityscape is cone and pot shaped. The machines and appliances for everyday living are unfamiliar yet at the same time recognizable. The grainy drawings are sepia toned but change in hue over time as the stories shared become dark as war is depicted. The photos at times have age marks, are bent, and cracked adding to the historical quality of the wordless narrative. It is difficult to adequately describe how poignant, sad, yet heartwarming this immigration story is, allowing the reader to feel the confusion that immigrants must feel alone in a new country while trying to adapt. It can start wonderful discussions about immigration. Highly recommended. Grades 6-12.… (more)



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