AustLit logo
image of person or book cover 5534213413163767396.jpg
This image has been sourced from online
y separately published work icon The Arrival single work   graphic novel   children's  
Issue Details: First known date: 2006... 2006 The Arrival
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

"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." (Source: Shaun Tan website)



Reading Australia

Reading Australia

This work has Reading Australia teaching resources.

Unit Suitable For

AC: Year 10 (NSW Stage 5).


Australia, Australian Bush, Australian landscape, colonisation, connection to place, fear, gender, identity, isolation, marginalisation, migrant experience

General Capabilities

Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding, Information and communication technology, Intercultural understanding, Literacy, Numeracy, Personal and social

Teaching Resources

Teaching Resources

This work has teaching resources.

Teacher's notes from publisher's website.


  • The Arrival is a 128 page book of illustrations without words, a silent graphic novel. Through a series of connecting images, it tells the story of an anonymous migrant leaving some unfortunate circumstances in his home country, crossing an ocean to a strange new city, and learning how to live there. It is the story of every migrant, every refugee, every displaced person and a tribute to all those who have made the journey. It is a story without words but it tells a thousand tales. (Avid Reader Media Release 25/9/06)
  • The Arrival won the 2007 Australian Publishers' Association award for best-designed children's illustrated book.
  • Included in the New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books List for 2007.
  • Images from The Arrival were used in 2008 by the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) in their performance 'The Arrival'. The ACO's performance combined Shostakovich's final string quartet with projected images from Tan's picture book.

  • Included in the 2007 White Ravens Catalogue compiled by the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany. Special mention; international understanding; easily understandable.
  • A musical score by Ben Walsh, inspired by The Arrival, first performed by Orkestra of The Underground to projected images from the book at the Sydney Opera House, Sydney, New South Wales, October 2010.

Affiliation Notes

  • This work is affiliated with the AustLit subset Asian-Australian Children's Literature and Publishing because a Japanese version has been published.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • South Melbourne, South Melbourne - Port Melbourne area, Melbourne - Inner South, Melbourne, Victoria,: Lothian , 2006 .
      Extent: 128p.p.
      Description: illus.
      ISBN: 0734406940
  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon The Arrival and Sketches from a Nameless Land Shaun Tan , Sydney : Hachette Australia , 2010 Z1727145 2010 selected work picture book criticism Sydney : Hachette Australia , 2010
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: Hachette Australia , 2014 .
      image of person or book cover 5534213413163767396.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online
      Extent: 128p.
      Description: illus.
      • Published 14 October 2014
      ISBN: 9780734415868
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: Hachette Australia , 2015 .
      image of person or book cover 8480739992620230614.jpg
      This image has been sourced from Booktopia
      Extent: 1vp.
      • Published: 1st September 2015
      ISBN: 9789045118390
Alternative title: La ou vont nos peres
Language: French
    • Paris,
      Western Europe, Europe,
      Dargaud ,
      2007 .
      image of person or book cover 5954227258245511799.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 1v.p.
      Description: col. illus.
      ISBN: 9782205059700

Works about this Work

Looking beyond the Scenes : Spatial Storytelling and Masking in Shaun Tan's The Arrival Christiane Buuck , 2017 single work criticism
— Appears in: Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults : A Collection of Critical Essays, 2017; (p. 154-170)

In this essay Christiane Buuck and Cathy Ryan 'discuss how introducing comics theorist Thierry Groensteen's ideas about visual repetition enriched their university students' ability to interpret the medium. First introduced in his 1999 classic The System of Comics and reinforced in his wiz text Comics and Narration, Groensteen's term "braiding" refers to a repeated element in a comic that draws the reader's attention to a particular idea or theme using images rather than words. The repeated element can be a page layout, the layout of an image in a panel, the repetition of a design, the figural placement of characters or objects on the page, but the key is that the braid requires the reader to be an active agent in the interpretative process (Comics and Narration 35). Buuck and Ryan demonstrate that many of the repeated elements—what they term "visual metaphors'—in Shaun Tan's The Arrival "offer opportunities for readers to superimpose their own lived experiences and cultural perspectives on the book's visual landscapes.' (from Introduction)

The Association for Children's & Youth Literature (AKJ) : Arbieitskreis Fur Jugendliteratur Robyn Sheahan-Bright , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: Magpies : Talking About Books for Children , May vol. 32 no. 2 2017; (p. 4-9)

'One of the many benefits of attending biennial International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY) Congresses in different countries, hosted by national sections, is meeting and befriending those engaged in book promotion all over the world and discovering how similar we are, despite our cultural differences. Doris Breitmoser has worked for The Association for Children's and Youth Literature (AKJ) Arbeitkreis fur Jugenliteratur for twenty years and has been its director since 2002. We met at the IBBY Congress in Santiago, Spain in 2010, again in 2014 in Mexico City, and most recently in 2016 in Auckland , NZ. Doris's work with AKJ is truly inspiring and so I share it with you here.' (Introduction)

Postcolonial Issues and Colonial Closures: Portrayals of Ambivalence in Shaun Tan’s The Arrival Renata Lucena Dalmaso , Thayse Madella , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Ilha Do Desterro : A Journal of English Language , vol. 69 no. 2 2016;
'This article aims to investigate the visual representation of the connection between immigration and the construction of an Australian identity as a nation in Shaun Tan’s graphic novel The Arrival (2006). Based on the debate about imagined communities and the ambivalence on the narration of a nation, proposed by Benedict Anderson and Homi Bhabha, we will discuss how The Arrival creates moments for the appearance of the ambivalence of cultural difference at the same time that it also constructs a horizontal imagined community. On these terms, The Arrival depicts some of the liminal positionality that immigrants have to deal when they arrive in a new place, but also constructs a cohesive and homogeneous narrative that entails the assimilation of the immigrants. In other words, this work offers a closure that can be read as an assimilation of the colonial discourse for a series post-colonial issues.' (Publication summary)
Kinship between 'Companion Species' : A Posthuman Refiguration of the Immigrant Condition in Shaun Tan’s The Arrival Bidisha Banerjee , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Journal of Postcolonial Writing , vol. 52 no. 4 2016; (p. 399-414)
'Academy Award-winning author and illustrator Shaun Tan’s 2007 graphic novel The Arrival poignantly tells the story of the typical immigrant experience. Tan creates an ostensibly alienating and unfamiliar terrain which may be described as a “posthuman landscape”. Instead of presenting the traditional native-versus-immigrant framework typical of diasporic stories, Tan chooses to delineate an inter-species relationship where the immigrant man is assisted by a native animal. An odd-looking creature becomes the protagonist’s guide in the new country and assists him in a myriad of ways throughout the story. This article explores the implications of such a relationship in the age of the Anthropocene where the privileged anthropocentrism of western humanism has been replaced by an egalitarianism of species. Using Donna Haraway’s notion of “companion species” and Rosi Braidotti’s recent articulation of the posthuman, it suggests a connection between the posthuman and the postcolonial in Tan’s text and thereby explores the significance of a non-human Other coming to the assistance of the immigrant Other within the space of a posthuman, postcolonial world. Thus the article seeks to study the reconfiguration of otherness in the face of incommensurable difference, and articulate its implications for diasporic thought.' (Publication abstract)
Strange Migrations : An Essay/interview with Shaun Tan Shaun Tan , Harriet Earle , 2016 single work essay interview
— Appears in: Journal of Postcolonial Writing , vol. 52 no. 4 2016; (p. 385-398)
'This piece by Shaun Tan was originally written as a keynote address to the 33rd International Board on Books for Young People Congress, held in London in August 2012. The version presented here has been edited, with additional questions, by Harriet Earle. For Tan, the comics form offers the freedom and space to discuss issues of identity creation and the role of narrative in this process. As a child of mixed nationality parents, the question of how cultural and national mores have shaped his personal identity looms large in Tan’s work. He asks, “Where is the ‘train station’ through which all these cultural railways pass?” and, although no definite answer is necessarily forthcoming, uses the comics form to begin to respond to his own question. Alongside these issues of cultural migration, Tan considers the classification of his work and how the label of “children’s literature” both affects the reception and offers new freedoms. Beginning with his origins in Western Australia and the impact of his parents’ mixed ethnicities on his formative years, Tan charts his personal and artistic development and offers new insight into what comics and graphic narratives can tell us about migration, multiculturalism and curiosity.' (Publication abstract)
Kids' Lit Jodie Minus , 2006 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 30 September - 1 October 2006; (p. 14)

— Review of The Arrival Shaun Tan , 2006 single work graphic novel ; Ten Things I Hate about Me Randa Abdel-Fattah , 2006 single work novel
Picture the Quest to Belong Jason Nahrung , 2006 single work review
— Appears in: The Courier-Mail , 14 - 15 October 2006; (p. 27)

— Review of The Arrival Shaun Tan , 2006 single work graphic novel
The Journey of The Arrival Deryck Greenwood , 2006 single work review
— Appears in: The Newsletter of the Australian Centre for Youth Literature , October no. 2 2006; (p. 12-13)

— Review of The Arrival Shaun Tan , 2006 single work graphic novel
A Collage of Visual Truths Angie Schiavone , 2006 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 4-5 November 2006; (p. 34-35)

— Review of The Arrival Shaun Tan , 2006 single work graphic novel
This Week's Selections Katharine England , 2006 single work review
— Appears in: The Advertiser , 11 November 2006; (p. 12)

— Review of The Arrival Shaun Tan , 2006 single work graphic novel
Drawn to the Image Frances Atkinson , 2007 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 27 January 2007; (p. 26-27)
Horror of a Hit Jason Nahrung , 2007 single work column
— Appears in: The Courier-Mail , 3 - 4 February 2007; (p. 23)
Strangers in Strange Lands Shaun Tan , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: Viewpoint : On Books for Young Adults , Summer vol. 14 no. 4 2006; (p. 4-7)
Shaun Tan describes the creative process behind the development of The Arrival
Taking a Punt on This List Penelope Davie , 2007 single work column
— Appears in: The Courier-Mail , 21 - 22 April 2007; (p. 26)
Wins Put Tan in Picture Jason Steger , 2007 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 30 May 2007; (p. 2)
Last amended 30 Jul 2020 09:51:20