The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Another lovely book from Shaun Tan.

The Arrival has no words, it’s all pictures (must be the easiest book to translate). And I almost have no words to describe it, because it’s so overwhelmingly good. The drawings, the imagination, it’s so out of this world that you feel you are transported to this magical majestic place.

Amazing amazing work.

The Arrival is a story about a man who leaves his family to a foreign place, to a new world for, like most if not all immigrants, a better life. ‘Strangers in strange lands’ is best to describe the theme.

The foreign-ness of the place, the sense of not belonging, the awe of seeing a different world, the strangeness of everyday’s details. It’s captured very well.

In fact, the wordlessness strengthens it.

I felt like I was watching a foreign movie with no subtitle. Or reading a book in a language I don’t understand. This is something I can really relate to– trying to find meanings in gesture, expression and body language. And that’s what the man in the story is trying to do too. I can understand his hardships. It’s like we’re trying to find our way together and are equally surprised with the unfamiliar.

What else can I say? Shaun Tan is a genius in expressing himself with visual art. I’m a huge fan. The Arrival is perfect for its kind.

I gave my dad the book to read. He finished it and said, spot on. This comes from a real live immigrant.


The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images that might seem to come from a long forgotten time. A man leaves his wife and child in an impoverished town, seeking better prospects in an unknown country on the other side of a vast ocean. He eventually finds himself in a bewildering city of foreign customs, peculiar animals, curious floating objects and indecipherable languages. With nothing more than a suitcase and a handful of currency, the immigrant must find a place to live, food to eat and some kind of gainful employment. He is helped along the way by sympathetic strangers, each carrying their own unspoken history: stories of struggle and survival in a world of incomprehensible violence, upheaval and hope.

If you have read the book (or even if you haven’t), I encourage you to read Tan’s comments on The Arrival (it’s at the bottom after the series of pictures).





2006, 128 pp

I also reviewed another of his book: Tales from Outer Suburbia just last month, which I also gave perfect score. How biased am I?

2007 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award for Book of the Year and Community Relations Commission Award
Nominated for 2008 Hugo Award Best Related Book and Best Professional Artist

Also reviewed by

Tripping Toward Lucidity | Ready When You Are, C.B. | OF Blog of the Fallen | ReadingAdventures | Blogging for a Good Book | Ticket to Anywhere | Stuff As Dreams Are Made On | Library Queue (with the most comprehensive awards list!) | | Rebecca Reads |

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12 thoughts on “The Arrival by Shaun Tan”

  1. Suko: lol. I hope you can find it and enjoy it as much as I did.

    susan: Oh your library should have it. It’s excellent for its kind!

  2. Wow… the wordlessness strengthens it. I love that, and have to read this! And yeah, I know I say this whenever you mention Tan :P Hopefully next time it’ll be, “I have read this and it was awesome!”

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