The Arrival

With touching detail, Shaun Tan's picture book tells the story of a migrant family, seeking refuge and asylum in a strange new city. By depicting this new city as an alienating, science-fiction world, Tan performs a neat trick on our empathy glands. By undermining our own ability to navigate this strange new world, all and any stereotypes are cleverly swept away and we are made instead to share the family's confusion, struggle, astonishment. We can't see the way forward either, when the child is lost. We can only wait with her to be saved, feel how it is for her. Every child I have ever read this story to holds their breath again and again until the next kind act comes along to lighten the family's load or light their way a little bit further. The happy ending is itself an act of kindness, as one child helps another child.

'The Arrival' is a wonderful story to show to children but this is a book for adults too, especially now, when refugees and migrant families have perhaps never been more vilified in the press. This quietly brilliant, understated book is so timely. Above all, in 'The Arrival', Shaun Tan allows us to see the small acts of kindness which come the family's way for what these everyday moments really are: Transforming.


Completely astonishing

The Arrival is utterly astonishing and original. My children (aged five) are obsessed with it. And as Jo Ely says, it works for adults too, especially those interested in migrant stories (and I'm a child of migrants). This book has layer upon layer of empathic revelation woven into it - we gain a glimpse of the confusions, the uncertainties, the dislocations, of starting a new life.


A wordless piece of genius

I agree, this is an extraordiary book. Its genius is that it has no words at all - the whole story is told through a series of images, so it can be 'read' by anyone. Every reader must work to find their own sense in the pictures and try to imagine what the people of the strange city must be saying to the arrivals, who no better understand it themselves. 

This book was first enjoyed by my kids when they were three, probably for its curious images and animals, but it is a profound story that is for every age. I could imagine giving it to a 5 year old, a fifteen year old or a 50 year old. 


Heart wrenching beauty.

Many of Shaun Tan's books take you on a journey into somewhere poignant. This is a timely and stunning example of his work, told only in pictures - leaving us room to test our own perceptions.

Average: 4.7 (3 votes)
Shaun Tan
Book type: