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.
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'
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
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.