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English Year 6: The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The Arrival by Shaun Tan


What is a Graphic Novel?


A graphic novel is often a very rich and layered text with many interpretations, depending on who is 'reading' the text. It often requires many readings to really grasp all that is happening and you will often discover new things every time you read it. Shaun Tan is a brilliant author, using the medium of art to tell the story. He uses visual elements to convey feelings of the characters and the mood of the story. 

The Arrival by Shaun Tan


Look at the front cover

Consider the title and the image on the front cover.
Who do you think is arriving in this picture? Why
What does the colour and the design of the cover tell you about the time this story might be set in?
What do you think is happening between the two 'characters ' on the front cover? What do they think of each other?
Why might they be so different?

Turn to the end pages on the inside cover. 
Can you connect these different faces with the theme of 'arrival'

Read the story together

The first chapter tells a story of migration. A family is separated when the father leaves first to journey to a new land (the destination is deliberately unknown).

After reading chapter 1, watch the first video below.






The second chapter tells of the father's journey and arrival in a new and foreign country. Everything is alien to him and we can feel how out of place and overwhelmed he is feeling. He is often lost and confused by things. Language is a barrier. He settles in his new lodgings. Take notice of what he does when he settles in to his rooms.
The third chapter tells of his experiences trying to get around the new city. He meets another couple of immigrants who have arrived for different reasons. They help him to understand some of the things which are strange to him. He makes connections and starts to feel more comfortable in his new land.
The fourth chapter shows his experiences in looking for work. Once again he meets others who have gone through hardships just as he has done.
Chapter five shows the passing of time and the longing to have his family with him again and finally their arrival too.
The final chapter reveals the beginning of their new life as a family. It shows the cycle of arrival beginning again, when the daughter meets and helps a new person

Shaun Tan The Arrival Animation

Interview with Shaun Tan


The following two videos are short interviews with Shaun Tan. Shaun talks about the themes in his book and what he has done to express ideas about multiculturalism and migration. He also talks about The Arrival as a book that anyone can read.

Shaun Tan

Author's Purpose


Author's Purpose

Finally, consider the reason that Shaun Tan wrote this book.
What message about immigration and migrants is he wanting to get across to the reader of this book?
What reasons does he give for people migrating to a new country?
What does he want us to know about those experiences?


Why does he draw the new country so strangely and so alien looking?
Look at other images in the book of buildings, machines, roads, transport and so on. Why has he drawn them so that they don't look at all familiar. What is his purpose in exaggerating the differences in these everyday things that we need to navigate?