Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Book Review: THE ARRIVAL

by Shaun Tan
Lothian Books,
an imprint of Hachette Livre Australia
South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Review copy provided by publisher

Every detail of this book is worth lingering over. The cover is designed to look like an antique leather-bound book, and the story's art has a photographic feel as well. All of these details lend this story of the immigrant experience an authority that allows the reader to accept the strangeness of the world depicted in the illustrations not as a literal strange new world, but as an artistic representation of the strangeness that an immigrant encounters no matter where he moves: there are barriers of language, food, and finding work; there is loneliness, isolation, and longing for loved ones. But at every turn, there are those who will help. Those who have their own stories of leaving, abandonment, and exile.

The most amazing thing about this intricate and subtly nuanced graphic novel is that it is silent. No words whatsoever.

In his essay about the book (Click on the cover image and scroll down. Take your time, because the pictures are amazing!), Shaun Tan describes his move from creating picture books to creating this graphic novel. He had never read many comics or graphic novels, so he turned to Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics to Japanese manga and to Raymond Briggs' The Snowman for information and inspiration. When you look at the layout of some of Tan's pages, you can definitely see Brigg's influence. The moments when the reader must "read" the emotions on a face or in a gesture are very reminiscent of manga.

I can't wait to share this book with my 5th graders. I think it will deepen their thinking about immigration. I'll have to share the book with small groups so that they can see the pages and talk...even though the book is silent, I'm sure they won't be! It'll be fascinating to see what 11 year-olds make of it!

Here's my favorite website for helping kids to understand the waves of immigrants who have come to America, beginning with the Native Americans crossing the land bridge from Asia.

A review from a New Zealand blogger.

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