My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The universal human experience of moving or migrating is beautifully illustrated in The Arrival. The fact that the story is told without words somehow brings more emphasis to the language of the new city where the main character travels to. Anyone who has travelled can relate to the exhilarating and wearisome experience of trying communicate your basic needs to a stranger.
I was struck by the characterization of the city itself in Tan’s illustrations and thought immediately that it looks like New York City. There seems to be a pyramid shape to the city’s landscape that reminds me of downtown Manhattan where the Empire State Building faces the Rockefeller Center. I had the opportunity to visit New York City for the first time last year and it is possible to see this view from Ellis Island of the Statue of Liberty.
Although the book is filled with whimsical and fantastical creatures, they don’t detract from the power of our main character’s experience in setting up a new life for himself and his family. On the contrary, he meets others like himself who tell their own story of escaping some kind of hardship (like the monster in our main character’s homeland) and then being greeted by a kind stranger in the new land. The final panel in the book communicates the cyclical nature of migration.
Brian Kelley (2010) says:
Using images and illustrations, with or without words, is one of the many ways humans communicate. Humans are visual beings as well as oral-aural beings. To process our world not only through language, but also through viewing, thus forming a deeper understanding of life and communication when our sense merge (pp. 6 – 7).
Shaun Tan accomplishes this merging through his book. I feel as if I have a deeper understanding of the immigrant experience having read The Arrival.
Kelley, B. (2010). Sequential art, graphic novels, & comics. SANE Journal,
Tan, S. (2006). The arrival. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books.