I guess these mini reviews will become more frequent as I read more short books. This time I read two illustrated books that I borrowed from the library. Both were quick reads, but the story in both were quite touching. I’ll start with my favorite of two. (Click the images below for a larger version.)
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Arrival is a graphic novel in which the story is told using only pictures. The story is about a man who must leave his family behind as he travels to find a safer place for them to live because something large threatens his country. He travels overseas to an immigration agency elsewhere and gets a pass to settle in a new land that is very different to where he’s from.
People are close to the creatures in the new land, which they keep as pets, and the man has to adjust to this as well as the different language and food and surroundings. He makes new friends and learns their history, but his mind is always with his family. After working enough, he is able to send for them.
Reading comics and graphic novels have made me even more aware of how much is communicated nonverbally via gestures, body language, and facial expressions. This book makes that even more apparent because there are no words yet I understood what the story is about and could easily follow its progress.
I loved the story because it’s emotionally charged and tugs at the reader’s heartstrings though no word is said. We are instead affected by the characters’ facial expressions and body language. The protagonist is an immigrant who relocates to an immigrant community. I could relate to his story though my experience would more so mirror that of his child’s. The story is positive and focuses more on the new relationships one makes when one relocates to a new place and how a person settles into a new community: get to know the folks, the area, and its customs. There are also moments of sadness, like when the protagonist thinks of his family. I love how those sections are depicted by showing a close-up of him staring at a photo of his family and slowly zooming out. The story also has its funny moments, like when the protagonist is surprised by something unexpected.
The art is great. The illustrations are rendered to resemble aged photographs and even the book itself is designed to look like an old album. The monotone drawings are casted in various tints to not only give them a photographic look, but also to show when a person is reflecting and telling the protagonist about their past.
The drawings are well done and I like the zoom-out feature Tan uses to transition from focusing on the individual to include the immediate community the character is in. The overall effect of the illustrations makes it seem as if we are looking at the pictures through a camera. Each click shows us something new, but the events are shown to us almost minute to minute.
I loved it and it’s now one of my favorite books. I like that it provides a different way for reading a story and is still able to communicate its message and make the reader relate to and care for the characters. There’s much that we take for granted and overlook in our daily life and I appreciate this story for highlighting the ways we communicate without words.
A sweet, illustrated children’s story about a lonely girl, Hélène, who is bullied at school and copes by reading books, in this case Jane Eyre.
I don’t have many thoughts on this. The story is okay. I decided to read it because I read Jane Eyre recently and I wanted to see how it’s used in the story. I wasn’t impressed by the story (didn’t expect to be) but I didn’t get why everyone was so excited about it either.
It has touching moments like when Hélène is worried about going on a camping trip and is embarrassed by one of her tormentors while there and no one aides her. At first I didn’t get the inclusion of the fox but I guess it’s to show that our base instinct is to be kind.
The art is okay. I like how that the illustrations are different for Hélène’s life and her interests. Her life is illustrated using wispy lines and are in light and dark grey tones, but the things that interest her, like Jane Eyre and the fox, have more definite lines and shapes and the colors are stronger, bolder. In that way the art captures the fact that Hélène’s interests are more real to her than her life, which she tries hard to escape.
The story is okay and so is the art.