Friday, October 19, 2007

A book without words...

The Arrival / Shaun Tan
Let me start by saying that this book is really amazing. Shaun Tan takes a familiar story, that of an immigrant leaving all he knows to enter a strange land, and makes it so fresh and immediate that you'll feel like you've experienced it personally. And he does this without writing one single word.

Tan's book is composed entirely of pencil drawings that resemble old-fashioned sepia-tinted photographs. His drawings take us through the main character's poignant separation from his family when he leaves his home country to his arrival in a strange, new land. There he must decode an unknown language, customs, and new technologies. Tan manages the pacing of his story through the size and number of his drawings -- small drawings organized in a grid advance the plotline, while lush, double-page drawings give the reader a moment to absorb hundreds of details about the fantastical land that Tan has imagined. Subtle color changes indicate shifts in time as characters relate their backstories.

It took the author over four years to complete all the drawings for this book. He has an interesting website where you can view more of his beautiful, slightly off-kilter art at

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