Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Arrival

Tan, Shaun. 2007. THE ARRIVAL. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0439895294 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-12]

Tan’s sophisticated picture book is nearly a graphic novel in its elaborate in-depth visual story—without any text whatsoever. It received numerous awards when originally published in Australia and has a premise and execution that crosses all cultures and boundaries. The idea of the book focuses on the experience of a newcomer or immigrant in a strange land. Everything seems weird and awesome and Tan depicts a world that has familiar smokestacks and crowds, but is not an identifiable place. How he creates a sense of time and place that feels familiar, and yet also makes every reader feel uncomfortable and lost is quite remarkable. The various shades of sepia colors, and the way he breaks up the space for illustrations in various sized boxes, all work together to keep us turning the pages, immersed in this visual journey, full of tension and anticipation. The book blends the fantastical and the realistic with confidence and elegance. There will be much to pore over and discuss with readers of all ages in this masterpiece.

Readers who want to take this story further may enjoy creating their own multi-media adaptation with slides of favorite scenes and/or a musical soundtrack. How might they convey the dream-like tone of this story through music, sound effects, or additional selected visuals?

Other books illustrated by Shaun Tan:
Tan, Shaun. THE LOST THING. ISBN 1894965108
Crew, Gary. THE VIEWER. ISBN 1894965027
Other sophisticated picture books about immigration:
Sis, Peter. THE WALL. ISBN 0374347018

By Sylvia M. Vardell

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