by Shaun Tan
I've been thinking more and more of trying out some graphic novels, having read very few (one being a fabulous edition of Frankenstein illustrated by Bernie Wrightson that I read in college, mostly for the pictures.) I've got a few in mind that other book bloggers have drawn my attention to: Tales from Outer Suburbia, Clan Apis, Blankets and Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species by Michael Keller. So I wondered if my library had a graphic novel section, and wandering the stacks found them: right next to classics, a few shelves labeled 'COMIC BOOKS'. I felt kind of self-conscious poking through them (oddly, as I don't feel that way looking through picture books, or the YA section) and most were manga and other styles that didn't really appeal to me. But then I saw The Arrival. I looked through the entire book right there in the library (causing an outburst of where were you? when I got home, from what was supposed to be a quick ten-minute trip to the pharmacy) then brought it back home to go through again at leisure.
This book deserves that kind of close perusal, even though it's a story told without words. In beautiful, detailed, imaginative and highly communicative illustrations, Shaun Tan tells the story of an immigrant. He leaves his family in his home country and crosses an ocean to seek a better life in a bright, bustling city. Everything there is strange. The technologies, food items, writing and customs are all different- and completely fantastical, so they are strange to the reader as well, who thus shares in his wonder and confusion. As our quiet protagonist navigates this new country, he makes a few friends, meets other immigrants who share their stories, eventually finds work and brings his wife and child to join him. It's a wondrous story. I loved all the little details in the drawings; puzzled along with the man about what the symbols might mean, or what that strange-looking fruit might taste like. I loved all the curious animals, too.
The book has convinced me. I'm going to read some graphic novels, starting with whatever else I can find by this author. I love his work.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 128 pages, 2006
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