Rummanah Aasi
  Literacy has always been defined by scholars as having the ability to read and write. Now studies suggest that our definition of literacy is too narrow and that we should also include visual literacy, which allow us to use pictures like words to draw meaning. The critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Arrival by Shaun Tan, is a wordless graphic novel that challenges our way of thinking and reading.

Description: In this wordless graphic novel, a man leaves his homeland and sets off for a new country, where he must build a new life for himself and his family.

Review: Tan expertly captures the displacement, fear, and awe with which immigrants respond to their new surroundings in this wordless graphic novel. The story is very simple, but the execution of it is very complex and multi-layered. The Arrival depicts the journey of one man, threatened by dark shapes that cast shadows on his family's life, to a new country. His native land is shown in ominous dark colors suggesting a cold and confining place. Some reviewers have suggested that the native land has a totalitarian government by focusing on some symbols, but in my opinion, I think that might be reading a little too in to the graphic novel.
  The unnamed man goes through the several motions like any immigrant who is preparing him/herself to go to another land. The only writing in The Arrival is an invented alphabet, which creates the sensation immigrants must feel when they encounter a strange new language and way of life. A wide variety of ethnicities is represented in Tan's hyper-realistic style, and the sense of warmth and caring for others, regardless of race, age, or background, is present on nearly every page.
  When I first read The Arrival I was taken aback on the strange illustrations, but once I started reading this graphic novel slowly to full embrace its narrative, everything started to click and I grew mesmerized by the  strange new world that Tan creates. The Arrival is a very quick read, but reading it quickly is a big disservice to the reader and to the graphic novel. Readers who take their time looking at the pictures will grasp the sense of strangeness and find themselves participating in the man's experiences. They will linger over the details in the beautiful sepia pictures and will likely read the book again as soon as they turn the last page.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Though the reading level for this graphic novel can be as low as Grade 4, I would recommended this graphic novel for mature Grades 7 readers and up due to the complex understanding of the visual symbolism.

If you like this book try:  The Wall by Peter Sis, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
5 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    This graphic novel is wordless? Illustrations only? I can't say I've ever "read" a book like that before, aside from children's picture books but even those have a few words here and there. I have to say I'm curious about this one now!


  2. You know, I don't think I have really read anything on immigration. I would think there would more about this considering. This sounds very interesting. Thanks for this recommendation!


  3. Okay, I haven't heard of this book. WHY haven't I heard of this one because it sounds perfect for me. Wordless graphic novel. Oh I think I need to pick this up and read.


  4. Candace Says:

    Oh wow. I don't read graphic novels normally, but I think this is one that might actually interest me since it's wordless and just different from others. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!


  5. Does this mean that The Arrival has absolutely no words and is just illustrations? I think that would make for a very interesting "reading" experience. Also, it would be very open to different interpretations.


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