Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Arrival: Shaun Tan

Since the beginning of the term, my students and I have been exploring The Arrival by Australian artist/writer Shaun Tan. The Arrival is an entirely wordless picture book/graphic novel which follows the story of a man who leaves his homeland and emigrates to a strange but beautiful new world. Here he struggles at time with the new experiences, but is helped by a number of people with similar experiences.

This is a truly beautiful book, with carefully drawn illustrations. There are six chapters, and we have taken on a chapter a week with four small groups (we'll put 5 and 6 together). Each group takes time to go through the chapter, talking about the story as it develops and examining some of the visual symbols within the chapter. Students write on post-it notes whenever they find something they want to comment on, and it gets stuck into the book. Later it's put into the students' notebooks and they write further comments.

Sometimes the students have needed more preparation - before chapter 2, in which the main character comes to the new world, we read about migrant experiences with Ellis Island, particularly inspection procedures. This made it easier to understand the sequence when the character is examined and 'labelled'.

The students have surprised me at times with their understanding of some quite complex images, being able to explain them in ways I had never thought. There's a lot of sharing with the book - although we're working in different groups, each group reaches the same point by the end of the week, so they are able to discuss it with other people in the class. There's also comparisons with other books such as The Golden Compass, so that leads to further reading. I think I'll make some recommendations about books which feature moving to different places next for students who are interesting in reading more about the topic.

I highly recommend this book for a higher elementary/middle school group, particularly if you are doing work on immigration, new experiences or symbolism - I have loved watching the students become entranced by this amazing world..
Images from Shaun Tan's Website

No comments:

Post a Comment