Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Arrival

The Arrival is ironically our last entry for this Not Quite A Graphic Novel Month.

A New York Times Best Illustrated Book, it is a wordless look into a fantasy world of strange creatures, fantastic cityscapes, and people trying to find their places. The story follows a father as he leaves his young family. It seems that dragons are overtaking their homeland and they need to establish a home in a new land. After a train ride, he finds himself in a place where he has troubles communicating, he has to find work, and he has to figure out common tasks like finding food, cooking, and paying bills. Along the way he meets others who help, or sometimes complicate, his task to reunite with his wife and daughter.

Shaun Tan is an Australian author and animator. He has created a number of picture books, including The Red Tree, The Rabbits, and Tales from Outer Suburbia. He also directed the Oscar winning animated short, The Lost Thing. Tan does an excellent job with the drawings in The Arrival, made to resemble old photographs in a scrapbook. There is an immediate recognition of emotions, relationships, and activities, even though the scenery and imagery are often imagined and surreal. It offers an accessible, magnificent reading experience. He speaks in more depth about his work on the book in this interview with the School Library Journal (SLJ).

The list of blurb writers on the back of this book includes a who's who of comics creators and artists, including Brian Selznick, Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, David Small, and Craig Thompson. It has been a very well reviewed book. Kirkus Reviews called it "an unashamed paean to the immigrant’s spirit, tenacity and guts, perfectly crafted for maximum effect." Gene Yang described it as "mesmerizing" and wrote that "reading The Arrival feels like paging through a family treasure newly discovered up in the attic." Elizabeth Bird summed up saying it was "the best book published in America in 2007."

A number of preview images are available in this detailed write-up by SLJ's Elizabeth Bird. More information about the book, including a book talk and interview with the author, are available from the book's publisher, Scholastic.

Why it is not quite a graphic novel: This book has everything a graphic novel should have but words. It is more an illustrated book than a graphic novel. That said, it is impressive how well Tan strings together images and panels, interspersing personal, emotional details with double page spreads that show the scope and grandeur of this world.

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