My featured book this month is the most sophisticated picture book I’ve ever seen in my life. (And given that I’m a huge fan of Graeme Base‘s works, such as Animalia and The Waterhole, that’s saying something!)
I’m talking about The Arrival by Shaun Tan, which has to be the most perfect example of that well-known writer’s bug-bear “show, don’t tell”. (And for those of you who don’t know the phrase, what I mean by “show, don’t tell” is crafting your words so that your reader is shown what you want them to see, not just telling them what you want to see. For example, “I hate it when you baby me!” she said, angrily. Show the reader the character is angry by her actions and reactions e.g. clenched fists, tightness of jaw and eyes, jerky movements as she tries to rein in her temper and not to lash out at him etc. etc.)
This little gem is all show. There’s not a single word in the entire story, but Mr. Tan’s exquisitely detailed pencil drawings tell a richly detailed and simply enchanting tale…if only I could paint such evocative pictures with my words!
Here’s the blurb from Shaun Tan’s website:
“The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images that might seem to come from a long forgotten time.
A man leaves his wife and child in an impoverished town, seeking better prospects in an unknown country on the other side of a vast ocean. He eventually finds himself in a bewildering city of foreign customs, peculiar animals, curious floating objects and indecipherable languages. With nothing more than a suitcase and a handful of currency, the immigrant must find a place to live, food to eat and some kind of gainful employment.
He is helped along the way by sympathetic strangers, each carrying their own unspoken history: stories of struggle and survival in a world of incomprehensible violence, upheaval and hope.”
From the very first set of drawings on the very first page, I was enthralled by Mr Tan’s skill and artistry. And I couldn’t wait to show my kids!
Now my son is not a fan of fiction. He’s into non-fiction and he reads computer programming manuals for fun–he’s only 11! And today he was off school with a bad cold and feeling pretty darned grumpy and at odds with the world. But after I showed him a few of my favorite drawings from this book, it didn’t take very long for the smiles to return.
Highly recommended for adults and children alike! (For younger ones, you might wish to skim over some of the darker images, but there’s still plenty of delight with pages of whimsical creatures and beautiful imagery.)
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
ISBN: 978 0 7344 0694 1
A Lothian Book, published in Australia and New Zealand by Hachette Livre Australia Pty Ltd
Here’s my reading list for May:
- Zombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby (Read my interview with Amanda)
- The Gap Into Ruin; This Day All Gods Die by Stephen Donaldson
- The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding
- Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
- Stardoc by S.L. Viehl
- Frostbite by Richelle Mead
- Bedded by Arrangement by Natalie Anderson
- Mind Games by Christine Feehan
- Just In Case by Meg Rosoff
- The Arrival by Shaun Tan
- Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione