By Sarah Lynne Reul
I don’t know how you guys have been in the last couple weeks, but I’ve been feeling confused and a bit lost. Half the time I’m scouring news sites, trying to get a better grasp on our new reality, and the other half of the time I feel like covering my ears and huddling in the corner by myself. Sometimes if I’m lucky enough to land by the bookshelf, I might remember to curl up with my favorite book, “The Arrival” by Shaun Tan.
The soft, meticulous pencil drawings of this wordless graphic novel give a cinematic effect, like a silent movie – often I just open to a random page, and am instantly submerged in the story.
It’s an immigrant’s tale, following a man as he leaves his family in the dangers of his home country and travels to a new, peculiar world, where everything is foreign, from the indecipherable language to the strange foods that he doesn’t even know how to eat.
Along the way he meets other immigrants, who share their own stories while helping him navigate, find work and understand the new customs.
When I first saw Shaun Tan’s work, including this book as well as his wonderful essay Picture Books: Who are they for?, some small wheels started turning in my head. I believe it was at that point that I realized how effectively picture books can help both children and adults process complex thoughts and concepts.
“The Arrival” was first published ten years ago, but it feels so relevant today. It’s the story of a country accepting people from all over the world, told entirely with a delicate, expert use of light and dark values. Although there’s sadness and fear, there’s also hope and humanity, and it’s why I come back to it time after time.
Are there books that you read in hard times, that help you return to hope? If so, please share in the comments below.
Sarah Lynne Reul is an illustrator, writer and award-winning 2D animator who likes science, bright colors and figuring out how things work. Learn more at reuler.com.