What book would you gift to whom?

posted in: Shaun Tan | 17

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.

Tots100 Parent Blogger Book Club 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?

17 Responses

    • Zoe

      Thanks Trevor and Kristen. What was fun (and difficult) for me with this post was writing a new review of a book that I’m really familiar with. Have you ever written a second review of a book?

  1. Kristen Schwartz

    Ohhhh – Isil is very lucky! I received The Arrival as a gift too. It’s a favorite book of mine and Shaun Tan gave us all a gift by creating it. It is another worthwhile distraction worthy of a fresh cup of tea. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by my blog so I could discover yours!
    Kristen Schwartz recently posted..WORTHWHILE DISTRACTONS

    • Zoe

      Hi Rina, Hug Time is new to me but I shall certainly look it out. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Blessy Mathew

    I enjoyed THE ARRIVAL also. One of my favorite books is THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Selznick, and loved the writing, the illustrations. I just gave it to a teacher as a Christmas gift.

    • Zoe

      thanks Blessy, The invention of Hugo cabret is definitely on my list of books to read soon!

  3. sandhya

    We have loved ‘The Arrival’. Truly, a picture is worth a thousand words!

    If we do not have to stick to picture books, the books I would love to gift to any child- I think all children should read these- are ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and ‘The House at Pooh Corner’, both by A.A.Milne. Disney might have done a service to us, after all, in popularising the bear who loved honey! The books certainly appeal to all age groups, and I love the gentle humour that captures so much of a childhood.

    In picture books, my all time favourite for gifting is, without a doubt, Tulika books’ ‘My Mother’s Sari.’ I don’t have to tell you why.:)
    sandhya recently posted..Reading challenges for 2012

  4. Zoe

    Caryl, that’s a new one to me, I shall see if our library has it. Thanks for the tip.

  5. Myra from GatheringBooks

    Zoe! What a truly generous gift. I have a special spot for Shaun Tan – we had a collaborative blog post/book review on The Arrival (I wrote it with Fats) and Shaun was kind enough to send me an email about how he loved it (*fangirling with glee*) – but seriously, this a wonderful project. Too bad I didn’t learn about it soon enough. I love going through your posts!
    Myra from GatheringBooks recently posted..AWB 2012 Database

    • Zoe

      Ooh ooh ooooh! Gosh Myra, I’d be all of a quiver if that happened to me! Lucky you 🙂

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