The Arrival Book Poster Image

The Arrival

Wordless immigrant story is a visual masterpiece.

What parents need to know


Some images of people running from monsters. Pictures of war include skeletons, an amputee, and shattered homes.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Cigarettes pictured.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Arrival is a wordless graphic novel that tells the story of an immigrant who leaves his troubled country to make a life in a new country. The realistic, sepia-toned illustrations are beautiful and expressive, yet the story can be a little hard to follow, making it best for middle elementary school kids and older.

What's the story?

In a country beset with shadows and fear, a man leaves his wife and daughter behind to travel to a new country. Everything there is alien to him, even the language and alphabet. But, with the help of kind strangers and new friends, he's eventually able to find an apartment, make food, and get a job. And, finally, he's able to send for his wife and daughter.

Is it any good?


THE ARRIVAL has been called a graphic novel, but it bears little resemblance to others of that genre. It's completely wordless, and the pictures are a cross between scrapbook photos and storyboards for a silent movie. Done, incredibly, entirely in pencil and tinted in sepia tones, it's visually almost entirely metaphorical -- only the people, an array of nationalities and ethnicities, are recognizable. Everything else is designed to engender in the reader the same kind of awe and confusion that an immigrant might feel upon first arriving in a strange new country.

The Arrival is aimed at older children and adults, and kids will need some help from parents if they're to get anything out of it. It assumes a high degree of visual literacy, as well as familiarity with the immigrant experience. Even for older readers, it rewards repeat viewing and careful poring over and pondering of each frame. This brilliant and gorgeous book is in the vanguard of an evolution in literary and artistic forms. With the success of this book and others like it, we are likely to see a blossoming of new shoots and branches on the literary tree. If this is an example of the new directions they will take, long may they grow.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the visual metaphors throughout the book. What do the origami birds represent? What are all those monstrous shadows of tails hanging over the city?

  • How is this book different from a typical graphic novel? 

  • How do the colors in the book contribute to the mood and emotional tone?

Book details

Author:Shaun Tan
Illustrator:Shaun Tan
Genre:Historical Fiction
Topics:Great boy role models, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Arthur A. Levine
Publication date:October 1, 2007
Number of pages:122

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Teen, 13 years old Written byiggy12345 August 11, 2014


this wordless masterpiece is a great look at for all ages
What other families should know
Great messages
Parent of a 6 and 8 year old Written bypeony April 9, 2008

Visually stunning; immerses viewer in immigrant disorientation, fears, hope

An amazing, beautiful work; deeply affecting. But I got this for myself, not for kids -- it won't necessarily be accessible to younger viewers. There are a few potentially disturbing images of just what various immigrants were fleeing. And note that the overall atmosphere/depiction of immigration is of going to a land where everything is strange and changed and slightly mysterious -- the script, the transportation, the food, the animals, the machines, the musical instruments, everything. The viewer him/herself is thereby experiencing what the immigrant experiences: the wonder, confusion, and disorientation of being in this strange new land. That's a powerful experience for the viewer with the context to understand it, but could be just baffling or off-putting for a younger kid. Despite some sad and scary memories of immigrants from various backgrounds, and difficulties and surprises in communicating, the main character finds help from other characters, and does eventually get to send for, and be re-united with, his family, so it has a positive message. If you look through it with a kid, to explain it, I could recommend it for 8+; otherwise, for viewing alone, depending on a kid's familiarity with immigrant experience, a kid might need to be quite a bit older (12+?) to appreciate it.
Educator and Parent Written byJanelle Brin April 3, 2016

Moving, hopeful, and timely.

This is a true graphic novel (no text) that visually tells the story of a man who immigrates to another place in order to make a better life for himself, and eventually, his family (wife and child). As you know, this is an incredibly important and timely issue. This is a longer book, so this will probably take more than one reading with your child. What is wonderful about this book is that though the story is relatable to the real world, the setting is not. Because of the ‘imaginativeness’ of the world in which the character goes from and to, this becomes another LOW STAKES TEXT for you and your child. There are also lovely ‘pet’-like creatures that your child will delight in.
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