The Arrival should probably fall under picture books, in the traditional sense, because it is missing the one thing you expect to see in a novel – written words. I hold the highest respect for picture books, but the length, complexity, and depth put it closer to the category of a novel – or more specifically, it is called a wordless novel.
I read this (yes, read this) with both my daughters, ages eleven and seven. While the pictures are beyond compare in their ability to tell a story and speak to the reader, I do not believe all readers will see the same story. Shaun Tan himself said that no two people who had ever spoken to him about this book had the same view of what it “said.”
Therefore, I will not tell you anything, except that you must give it a try. There is a very good chance you will find yourself lurking somewhere in its pages.
1. Write a summary of the story as you read it.
2. Take any page or set of pages and write the words you think should go with the pictures.
3. Challenge – Take a moment from your own life that had a great impact on you. Tell it in the form of pictures. Focus on the emotion, not just the specific details about the event. Have a friend “read” it and see if they found the story you intended or a different one entirely. Did their story fit the pictures also? Next, tell them the story you were trying to say with your illustrations. Can they find your story in the pictures? Do they have any suggestions that could help you add details without taking away the ability for others to see their own stories?