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The Arrival by Shaun Tan

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Christina Whelan

on 26 September 2014

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Transcript of The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Learning Objectives
The student will be enabled to:

Explore and discuss the work of Shaun Tan and the influence of his own life on his writing.
Become aware of some possible reasons for migration and its effects on peoples lives.
Analyse Tan's artistic style and how it is used to convey various elements of the story.
Debate whether written language is necessary for effective storytelling.
Shaun grew up in Perth, Western Australia
He studied to become a geneticist, but gave it up to persue a career as an artist.
Tan has become well known for his surreal, dream-like picturebooks which often tackle social, historical and political topics; eg: The Rabbits, The Red Tree and Tales from Outer Suburbia
He has also worked as a concept artist for films such as Wall-E and Horton Hears a Who
In 2011 he received the presitgious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, honouring his contribution to international children's literature.
What is Emigration?

the act of leaving one’s own country to settle permanently in another; moving abroad.

Creating the Book
Universal Story
Can be applied to many different examples of migrant stories, for example;
Irish emigrants to America during the famine
Jews leaving Germany during WW2
Migrant Stories encountered in the book

What are the three things you would miss the most from home?
What three things would you take with you?
Imagine you are emigrating.
Inspiration for "The Arrival"
- Tan used his own personal experiences of growing up in Perth, where there is a long history of Chinese immigration.
- His father migrated from China to Australia.
- Tan also read various stories about emigration.
- He wanted to combine a number of different immigrant stories, rather than just showing one point of view.

It took about 5 years of research, plotting and drawing for Tan to make the book.
All the images in the book are hand drawn. The book has 128 pages; it took him a week to draw one page.
Tan's vision for the book changed drastically as he was drawing it.

Fine Details
Tan wanted to focus on the fine details of the story; he was very interested on how small interactions would take place in a new or strange country.
Artistic Style
- Tan used pencil and shading to create the images in the book; using very little digital editing.
- The book is very monochromatic, Tan uses sepia tones throughout; using colour sparingly.
- A different colour pallet is used to depict the stories of the people the protagonist meets, highlighting the difference between the current story and flashbacks.
- Tan wanted each double page spread to show a connecting story.

Tan uses multiple symbols to portray idea of hope; the paper crane "foreshadows the immigrants' first sight of the strange birds of the new place." (Johnson, 2012, p433) These birds are used as a symbol of hope; like the dove giving the first sign of land in the story of Noah's Ark.
Johnson (2012, p438) also notes; "As in other Tan books, such as the Red Tree (2001), imageries of growth are powerful metaphors of hope; the more the immigrant ventures forth, the more signs of growth and hope there are."
Colour Scheme
Tan wanted the book to look like an old photo album, giving snapshots of the journey the protagonist takes and the people he meets along the way.
As the story is set in the 19th century, the sepia colour tone is fitting for the time period, and also adds to the alien nature of the setting.
Go to:
Create your own wordless story!
According to Dony (2012, p252),
"the migrants' portrait galleries on the cover
flaps of
The Arrival
are directly inspired from
actual photographs of migrants from the
Ellis Island archives. In addition to using
archival photographs, Tan also included a
reworking of his father's passport picture".
A Silent Picture Book
“visual representations are believed to have been part of human society for almost five thousand years”
(Graham 1990, cited in Pantaleo, 2005);

This use of pictures as words is reminiscent of "the origins of written language" (Johnson, 2012), as Messopotamian clay tablets, Neolithic cave paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphics all used images as a form of written language.

Hillman also refers to Wordless books as “pure” picture books (cited in Jalongo et al, 2002).

In 1979 Metzger said; ‘Stories go in circles. They don’t go in straight lines’ (Routledge, 2009). We see this very clearly in The Arrival, the story ends with the protagonists daughter helping a new arrival in the country, showing that the story doesn't end when the family reunites; emigration is a cycle.
A Universal Story
Tan has created a story that is universally accessible, as there is no recognisable language used.

However, western influences are still visible, as the book is read from left to right. This differs from another wordless picture book; Jeanie Baker's
, which can be read from either orientation.
The majority of communication used daily is non-verbal.
This is especially true for the protagonist in the story, as we see him struggling with the language in the new country.

Without being able to speak the language, he is able to navigate his way through the story using body language, hand gestures, facial expressions and drawings in his notebook.

He uses these tools to secure himself a home, food, work and ultimately, safe passage for his family.
Learning Activity 3
Non-Verbal Communication
Now it's your turn, in pairs try and communicate with each other without saying a word!
Learning Activity 2
Trigger Question 1
Compare and contrast the emigrant experience of Irish people in the 1800's and the 2000's, has much changed?
Learning Activity 1
Trigger Question 2
Most stories are either real or surreal, but Tan fuses the two worlds in The Arrival. Do you find this technique effective? Why/Why not?
Trigger Question 3
How does the omission of words in The Arrival affect your interpretation of the book? Would you prefer a book with only words, just pictures, or a combination of both?
(Farrell, Arizpe, McAdam, 2010)
"Tan is fully aware of the power of the silent narrative, not only in removing the distraction of words, but slowing down the reader so that they might meditate on each small object and action, as well as reflect in many different ways on the story as a whole"
(Farrell, Arizpe and McAdam, 2010)
"it's like a dream when it's silent"
(Shaun Tan, Scholastic video interview, accessed 14/11/13)
Roll the dice and answer the questions!
Links to other elective set-texts

Literary Techniques/
Visual Design

Semi-Historical Graphic Novel
Cultural Context

Tan places realistic human characters in a completely surreal and alien world.
"In order to best understand what it is like to travel to a new country, he wanted to create a fictional place equally unfamiliar to readers of any age or background"
Tan creates entirely new breeds of plants and animals, strange weather patterns and bizarre forms of transport.
Possible uses for The Arrival in a classroom setting?

Full transcript