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4.9 out of 5 stars108
4.9 out of 5 stars
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on 27 February 2007
I would recommend this book on the strength and beauty of the drawings alone, but I am happy to say that it also tells a moving, compelling story. It captures well that first encounter with a new country, the "arrival" when one is geting to know a new place, new language, new foods and trying to make sense of it all. Is this world safer than the one you've left behind? What dangers forced you to leave?

Through using elements of fantasy, it avoids an easy exoticism and prevents us from patronising the main characters -- we don't understand this world either, can't read its language, don't recognise its animals or know how its machines work. We aren't sure what is safe and what is not. We would like to believe the world is benign, but we don't know, and there seem infinite possiblities for things to go wrong. In this tension, it also captures the importance of the kindness of strangers and of fellow immigrants, whose sometimes painful back-stories are conveyed beautifully and concisely in one or two pages of images.

All this, without the use of words. A remarkable achievement.

I am an immigrant by choice, not necessity (as are many of the characters in this story), but I know what I will be giving my friends and relatives for years to come.
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Even wonder what it's like to be an immigrant moving to a new place to look for work, to see and experience a whole new world? The Arrival will tell you the story of someone who made this journey.

This beautiful book is designed like a worn out photo album from the past, not sure which past if the photo on the cover is anything of a hint. The book opens to a wall of immigrant photos, just like those you'll see in Ellis Island Museum. Several drawings of immigrant processing, passport pictures, and the "arrival hall" are based on photographs taken at Ellis Island.

The story starts with a man putting a photo of his family carefully into his luggage. It's early morning. His wife and daughter are walking him to the train station. The scene cuts to show the town he's leaving from, one that's inhabited by gigantic black tentacles. At the train station, you can see the sadness in the eyes of her daughter, who only manages to break into a sad smile when her dad pulls a paper crane from under his hat to cheer her up. They hug and bid farewell. The train leaves. The mother and girl then walk back home under the shadows of the tentacles.

You can tell the tremendous amount of research and thought put in the panels. Shaun Tan has put little nuances and details everywhere, enabling readers to fully immerse themselves in the new world feeling the sense of wonder and foreignness as a new immigrant might. When the man is in the arrival hall of the immigration building, he undergoes the health checkups, questioning by officers on the purpose of his visit before he's approved entry.

He finds his job, made new friends and we learn their stories and more of this strange world. The last act ends happily with the man inviting his wife and daughter over. Seeing the joy on their faces as they reunite is so touching. In the last panel, the girl is pointing directions for a newcomer who's lost.

My short review just barely scratches the depth of the book. It's really much deeper.

This is storytelling at its best. Every panel advances the story. No words are used, and none are needed. Shaun Tan seems to have perfected the art of visual narrative with his surrealistic imagery and believable facial expressions. This book is a fascinating eye opener in every literal sense. It's really an enjoyable read and experience.

Most highly recommended.

(There are more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)
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on 26 January 2007
Leave those you love behind to face a fearful future. Arrive in a bewildering place - strange and uncaring. Slowly friendly strangers help you move around, make sense of bizarre food, and begin to make sense of this place. Every good person has tale to tell. Most have beautiful surreal pets too. A testament to one of the bravest acts of humanity - to leave everything behind and seek a future for you and your family in another world.

Shaun Tan has produced another work that combines the surreal with profound human experience. This is more clearly aimed at a older audience - some adults found the 'picture book' format a barrier to engaging with 'The Red Tree'. The artwork and presentation is beautifully done - the paper is detailed like aged documents - spots of mould or cracks where a picture has been kept in a pocket - give a feel of a treasured scrapbook of life-changing moments.

The book is wordless - and unlike his previous works, has many smaller drawings (some can be seen at his website). They are all pencilled with subtle colours added, giving a more sombre feel that previous works, but the story and his wonderful details quickly capture your full attention.

[...]
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on 27 November 2007
While it doesn't take long to "read", its artwork is just so captivating. The reason I put read in quotes is that there aren't any words, just pictures. But the artwork that is there, is just outstanding. You could take forever just engrossed in the beautiful artwork that is inside of this book. The story that is told through this artwork is really great. Its basically the story of a man who travels to a new place and is dependent on the kindness of strangers. All in all, a great story that everyone should take a look at. May I also recommend The Fates by Tino Georgiou. A Brilliant novel.
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on 14 December 2007
Living proof that picture books are not just for children, The Arival by Shaun Tan is one of the best books of the year. Not an easy read, there is so much in each and every one of the wonderful pictures. This is a book to read again and again and each time there will be something there that was hidden before. The man is a genius. This should be on the shortlist for the Booker prize.
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on 17 April 2007
This illustrated book has no words at all - yet through creative and detailed artwork it reveals a poignant personal record of one person's journey to a new land. There are poweful reminders throughout of the value of friends and the timeless story of those who seek a better future. Through pictures the narrative vivdly expresses the sadness of leaving homeland and family and the bewilderment and fear, as well as the joy and kindnesses, experience in encountering the unknown. Definitely a book to have in the year 6 book collection.
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on 15 September 2009
'The Arrival' is a sad, old fashioned, silent graphic novel. The book allows you to use your brain and make up your own story from the illustrations.

We liked it because of the super illustrations. They were greatly detailed, specifically the origami, inspection and passport documents. The fact that there was no colour added to the mood of the story. We liked the varying sizes of pictures.

We all came up with our own stories from the illustrations but that did not matter to us. We shared our ideas and appreciated the different ideas and opinions.

We would recommend this book to children over 10 years old as some of the pictures are quite sad and younger children would not understand it all.

By Richard, Jordan A, Chloe G, Jordan R and Grzegorz
Primary Six
Bramble Brae School
Aberdeen
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on 24 March 2011
It took me a long time to purchase The Arrival. As an illustration student, everyone would reccomend this book, but I just never got round to buying it. Why didn't I let Shaun Tan into my life sooner! I found this in the Tenement Museum in New York, which tells you of how wide reaching and truthful this story is, as it clearly touches on notes that resonate with immigrant families. The book itself is wonderfully bound, reminiscent of an old diary or travel journal, very inviting. The illustrations also have a great sense of time and place, and it is clear how much work has been invested in this book as each image is calculated and beautifully constructed. Some spreads are simply awe inspiring, and it is great to see a picture book that doesn't instantly seek to define itself to a particular audience. Everyone can find something enjoyable and truthful in the Arrival, and it comes in such a wonderful package. Believe the reviews, this is a life changing book.
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on 27 May 2009
The Arrival is an ace graphic story.

It's cool because you can make your own story from the illustrations. Everybody has their own thoughts and interpretations of the book.

On the other hand some pictures are really hard to include in your own interpretations of the story because they are so complicated. The layout of the pictures can be confusing and sometimes you don't know what they represent.

At the start we thought the book was going to be dull and boring, however once we got going it was really fun. We loved making our own individual stories from the pictures!

By Primary Six
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on 29 November 2010
I have gone through this book so many times and each time I see something new within his art, this man is the best i have seen in making a novel readable through illustrations, no words are needed. He has an amazing eye to detail and wonderful imagination which captures your every thought, if it's different from what you normally buy and please don't be put off by the fact that it is a graphic novel it is truly well worth having on your shelf to look through as many time as you like, this will capture not only your heart but your imagination too.
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