Tan used photographs and paintings from the early twentieth century of immigration and immigrants as inspiration along with accounts and stories to inform his book. Tan encompasses family, ideology, freedom, alienation as well as acceptance and the journey of the human spirit in this epic tale. The effect is that of a silent film as the work is totally without narration, text or dialogue. Tan is in a very small fraternity with this work devoid of language that speaks eloquently with is content of image.
The arrival is by definition a picture book. It is one best suited for adults and young readers just past the age that regular picture books begin to lose their charm. It is a work certainly sophisticated that very young readers still can enjoy; but will need some guidance with the themes; in-depth precision and spirit that the novel exhibits.
Tan has written and illustrated at least two other books of his own; The Red Tree and The Lost Thing. His self- developed animation short of The Lost Thing was impressive enough to win an Oscar for Tan in 2011. His books have won numerous awards and he has been an educator as well as a much sought after artist and illustrator by other writers and publishers. He brings a special part of himself to all of his efforts.
The Arrival is a book to be read through it’s pictures, as all images are to be read. Every picture does tell a unique story. I would also suggest playing instrumental music; something with a sound-track diversity of themes and nuance as an accompanying background. The “extra something” music brings adds to the pleasure and allure of the book. It makes for a thing uncanny and creates an even greater cinematic experience. Your understanding of the journey of this tale’s nameless protagonist as universal immigrant will ultimately be a personal reflection of insight and joy. Tan’s “Arrival” gives us something to treasure and revisit from time to time as we journey and arrive ourselves.