The Arrival

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

New York      Levine Books     2006      Unpaged


2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens


This is a wordless graphic novel that deals with immigration.  Not your ordinary story of immigration where someone comes from a specific place and goes to another specific place.  It is every immigrant’s story—it is walking in someone else’s shoes and seeing strangers, strange animals/creatures, strange language and a strange new world through their eyes.


Author, Shaun Tan does a wonderful job of depicting the challenges and wonders of coming to someplace entirely foreign.  The entire book is brown and white pencil drawings which gives the overall feel of struggle but not as harsh as black and white could be.  There is a glimmer of hope alive in brown and white.  The expressions on the faces of the characters let the reader in on the anguish, the wonder, the hope and the happiness that occurs within.  There are familiar places within the book like:  when the ship arrives into port, you see Ellis Island’s Arrival Hall, the immigrants going through the lines, the health inspections and finally, a passport is given.  But much is foreign to the reader—no distinguishable words within the odd letters seen, animals that are strange looking creatures and towns that have a fantasy look to them. 


At first a teen may look for meaning within each page to find whose story this is. With prompting that this story tells every immigrants story they will delight in the unfolding chronicle of the man that immigrates to a new world in hopes of escaping the evils of his homeland. 

Cover Art:  By Shaun Tan will intrigue the teen as there is a familiar picture of a man who looks like he is going somewhere but with a creature that is like no other.  The cover is interesting enough to pick up to see what kind of creature that is and the graphic novel format will pull the teens in to this interesting perspective of immigration.


4Q      3P     M J S     G    


Extended Opportunities:  Write a short narrative or journal that describes one part of the story, i.e.  the arrival, looking for a place to stay or looking for a job.


Author Website:



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