Is there anything more generous than giving someone a book? In doing so you are not only giving them, if not the world, then certainly a world, even a universe. Bundled up with the book comes the wish for enjoyment, escapism, and perhaps knowledge and understanding of one sort of the other. And if it’s a book you love, you also offer conversation and a little bit of yourself. A book is indeed a rich gift.
The Tots100 Book Club is launching this month and I’m happy to say I’m taking part. Happy, because I get to spread the word about a book I love AND someone I choose gets to receive that book as a gift. But choosing one book to give to just one friend is a tough thing to do. If you could give any book to any person how would you go about choosing the book and the recipient?
After some umming and ahhing I decided to give the one book I would love everyone to have a chance to read, and to give it to someone I knew would appreciate the exquisite illustrations and powerful, haunting story told of a world that whilst wildly imaginative in its depiction is vitally fresh, though-provoking and relevant today: I chose The Arrival by Shaun Tan, to go to Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine.
Isil hosts a weekly round up of kids’ books called Book Sharing Monday and from this I know she likes unusual, especially beautifully and thought-provoking books. I hope The Arrival is book she’s going to fall in love with!
Now as it happens, I’ve reviewed The Arrival before on Playing by the book, but a book as great as this deserves a second review. So here’s my new review, a little briefer than usual and pared back to the essentials: why this is the book I’d see in every home, every politician’s office, every school, and why I think Isil and you will love it.
The Arrival bears witness to a young husband and father who emigrates to a new land in order to build a better life for his family.
The arrival must learn everything anew – from the language to the cultural norms – a huge challenge, but for several generous residents in his new home, who take time to welcome him. Is it a surprise that each of these strangers turns out to have their own stories to tell of emigration?
This tale of physical and personal migration is told with beauty, subtlety and creativity. Whilst The Arrival does not shy away from darker sides of humanity (the reasons for immigration loom threateningly in the background), this novel is ultimately a heart-changing exploration of human kindness and warmth, an optimistic story about how braveness of spirit can conquer fear and sorrow.
Perhaps at this point I should admit that this book contains not a single word. It is a graphic novel drawn with breathtaking skill, detail and elegance. You will find yourself pouring over Tan‘s images, (many of which give the impression of being old photographs, worn around the edges, gently creased through years of handling) and transported to another time, another place, surreal and yet familiar, alien and astonishing. To view some of the illustrations, shared by Tan on his website, click here.
As our immigrant is literally lost for words in his new land, so – as readers – are we. Like the immigrant, communication for us can only take place through drawings on paper, and so reading this story becomes an act of empathy. Wouldn’t you like to read a book that not only utterly transports you but nurtures thoughtful compassion?