Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Arrival

The Arrival - by Shuan Tan

12+ years, young adults and above

Have you heard of the term chars? - They are small islands on rivers which get inhabited by people in Bangladesh. The word is probably of Bangla origin. A few months back, The Hindu newspaper ran a small article about Swapan Nayak's photographs of migrants from Bangladesh living in 2000 such chars in Brahmaputra river since 1950s. Their number total to nearly 16 lakhs according to the article.

What makes these people leave their home and come and stay in such inhospitable and unhygienic environment. What uncertainty drove them from their country? - Political climate, war, unknown type of violence and other unimaginable causes. Probably the only reason people migrate is hope!. Hope that they would escape the violence and hardships in their own country. Hope that they would be able to live better in new environment. Every step is a big risk. They take them nonetheless with only hope in their mind.

Shaun Tan deals with this topic in his wordless picture book - The Arrival. A man bids adieu to his family from some eastern country (China, Malayasia, Taiwan - could be any eastern country) in search of better life in a prosperous country. He travels in a ship for a long time and arrives at a country where he cannot understand the language, the people, their customs and their life. He tries to make a decent living and meets many other migrants similar to him from various backgrounds and countries. All them try and struggle to live and make their ends meet. He gets help from the other migrants and finally his wife and kid also join him into this foreign country. The last page is full hope as his kid shows directions to another new migrant.

Shaun Tan mixes realism and surrealism to bring a dramatic picture book. Every picture needs to be pored into and looked into detail to understand the sentiments and meaning behind them. Sometimes, we might not understand the meaning of certain pictures; but, would eventually understand it as we go further down the pages. Go to Shaun Tan's website and click on The Arrival book to see some of pictures from his book. He mixes sepia tones with wrinkled pages look make a startling book on migrants and their hardships. His earlier books were for 11+ year olds, but this more specifically for adults.

It is very difficult to describe the book in words - If you get a chance to get hold of this book, do not miss it. The Arrival is one of the finalists in the Graphics Novel section in Cybils 2007. If you do not already know, Cybils is a public nominated, bloggers driven awards in children's literature. It is a great place to find out interesting books in various children's categories. Do not miss to browse through various categories and their nominations and finalists.

I am great fan of two illustrators - David Weisner and Shaun Tan. Both of them convey their stories with only pictures without any words. Both of them are at two extremes of the emotional spectrum. David Weisner makes us wonder, imagine and fantasize. Shaun touches our heart and gets us emotionally involved. David converts us into exuburent children; Shaun makes us into serious and responsible adults. Both of them are masters of this genre - wordless picture books.


Sheela said...

Thanks for another intriguing review of a book that adults/parents can explore and for the pointer to Tan's website, Satish!

Praba Ram said...

heart-warming wordless pick.

Immigrant stories and struggles amidst uncertainties - always inspiring.

I can't wait to review yet another immigrant story that I came across recently by Kane/Miller titled Ziba came on a Boat.

Your review neatly sets the stage for immigrant stories being addressed for the first time on Saffron Tree.

Thanks for the author pointer.

Choxbox said...

Awesome review Sathish.

Playing by the book said...

Very lovely to read your reaction to this important book Sathish. In return I can offer you my review:

Choxbox said...

Shaun Tan wins the Astrid Lindgren award!

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