The story progresses subtly along as a man says goodbye to his family and boards a steamship. Hes off to a strange and distant land, where he meets curious individuals and struggles along in isolation. Small details tell a rich story and we come to appreciate the small joys in the mans life. Its really amazing how much emotion Tan conveys in his images.
This is a really beautiful novel, though I have a hard time putting a recommended age group on it. The publisher officially says ages 3 5 in the press release that accompanied the book, but I cant quite picture these quiet but memorable pictures holding the attention of a 3 year old for long. Certainly, it is wordless; a story told entirely by pictures. But this is really more of an art book. The sepia toned illustrations are much more likely to hold the interest of older readers than younger ones.
In fact, Id say this book would be best received by older teens (especially those with an interest in art) and adults. While I could see a parent flipping through this with a child, or even a child making up stories themselves to go along with the pictures, I really think older readers will appreciate this more.
The Arrival, without words, conveys the feelings of loneliness and fear our unnamed hero deals with when he leaves his family to travel to a new land. We see the confusion at the new language, currency, and customs that are so alien to him. His daily struggle to learn his surroundings and meet expectations of others around him are difficult to watch. This book moved me to tears as I watched his brave journey from new arrival to seasoned citizen. This is perhaps one of the best books that I have seen in our Media Center in years.
What would it be like to move to another country where you didn't speak the language and didn't even recognize the alphabet? The buildings, food, and even animals are different from what you are used to. How would you find a place to live? How would you find work? How would you find something to eat? This is the experience presented in this book.
The Arrival is very effective. There are no words, just illustrations, but this only helps cement the idea of being in a completely foreign world. The art is beautiful and detailed; it reminded me of Chris Van Allsburg's work.