The Arrival

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The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a beautiful, magical, haunting, hopeful, human story told entirely in pictures. Like the experience of the main character who comes to a new land and makes his way with the help of others, I have relied on the words of others to help me write and shape this review. The review of The Arrival at bn.com started with a quote form one of my favorite authors, Philip Pullman, and is the perfect place to begin writing and thinking about this exceptional book:

"Stories can be presented in the form of words, but they can also be presented in the form of pictures.... Whatever stories are made of, words aren't fundamental to it. Something else is. And what I think is fundamental to the narrative process is events -- stories are made of events."

The event that begins the story of Shaun Tan's book is a father leaving his wife and child to find a better life in a new land, a life that his family might be able to join him in one day. While the plot of the book can be told in one or two sentences, the experience of reading The Arrival can take up paragraphs of writing. Of his work, Tan has said that he has a recurring interest in "notions of 'belonging', particularly finding or losing it." Tan is a native of Perth, Australia, which he describes as being "one of the most isolated cities in the world, sandwiched between a vast desert and a vaster ocean." His father emigrated there from Malaysia in 1960 to study architecture. Being half Chinese at "a time and a place when this was fairly unusual" the concept of belonging is not new to Tan. The Arrival is rich with this theme and the circular journey that occurs in this book is deeply rewarding, as are the connections between characters that are made, both adults and children. This is one aspect of the book that left a deep impression on me. The immigrants of this story, perhaps because in their ignorance of the language of their new home as well as the customs, are able to interact with and be...
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