Review - The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Mad World by Gary Jules.

My reviews are a bit different than most. As an undercover superhero (ordinary girl extraordinaire), my purpose is to try and uncover hidden gems lost from the familiar radar. Because of this, I have set up some guidelines for myself (just like the pirate code). :)

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 selling books (based on Amazon ranks).
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will review recent books or books of great merit (preferably both).

The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Published: October 1, 2007
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 128
Current Amazon Rank: #4,575

Author's Website:
Want it? Find it here.

The First Line:


My Take:
I am breaking one of my most cardinal rules for how I judge what book I will review. This is definitely under the top 25,000 best-selling books on amazon. And there is good reason for that. It is wonderful.

This is a wordless graphic novel four years in the making. It tells the story of a man who must go ahead of his family to a new country, and hopefully prepare the way for them to follow. I really am having a hard time finding words to adequately express how I feel about this book. It is... beautiful. Sad, and beautiful and it stays with you. The illustrations are so detailed and intricate, every confusion and trial he has to face is painfully drawn and you ache for him and feel joy with him as he navigates this new and foreign world.

Shaun Tan masterfully captures all of this by placing us in a world far removed from our own, complete with flying ships, towering (and beautifully elaborate) geometrical structures, and a language as foreign as anything you've ever seen. Without any words, we are placed in the same position as he is, and that confusion and that ache intensifies even more because you can feel you are him.

And the illustrations. This is a book to be read slowly. Even though it is barely over 125 pages, you could easily take an entire afternoon immersing yourself in it. You can get lost in these images.

And this has one of the most delightful creatures I've ever encountered in visual fiction. His "pet" is beyond adorable. I want one. I cannot tell you how much I want one.

The Final Word: Gorgeous, heart-wrenching and heart-warming, this is an beautiful story that I keep returning to, just for a peek, then find myself lost completely in all over again.

[Update]: I just flipped through it again and started crying. In a good way.


Heather said...

OMG I love this book so much. It made me cry, too! And laugh! I want a little pet, also. I'm pretty sure he would look cute snuggled up next to my dogs.

MissA said...

These illustrations are sooo...pretty? magnificent? luminous? haha idk but I love that you gave us a taste of what's in the book.

Added it to my TBR. fingers crossed I can read it before 2010 ends :)

Heather Zundel said...

MissAttitude - I cannot wait to see what you think of it. I try and find good realistic POC stories for you, but I keep straying into the weird and fantastical. I can't help it!