Shaun Tan The Arrival Belonging Essay

The graphic novel 'The Arrival' by Shaun Tan depicts themes of isolation, belonging, novelty, cultural difference and the issues and challenges around the whole idea of displacement. Displacement is a different theme to immigration or emigration, though they share some of the same common features, as displacement is often thrust upon communities or families for reasons such as imminent war, tribal fighting, famine or drought.

Displaced communities often suffer greatly from homesickness for their own...

The graphic novel 'The Arrival' by Shaun Tan depicts themes of isolation, belonging, novelty, cultural difference and the issues and challenges around the whole idea of displacement. Displacement is a different theme to immigration or emigration, though they share some of the same common features, as displacement is often thrust upon communities or families for reasons such as imminent war, tribal fighting, famine or drought.

Displaced communities often suffer greatly from homesickness for their own land - an issue not shared with those emigrants who optimistically leave in search of a better life, though sometimes even these can decide they have made a mistake. It is very often difficult to settle in a new land where culture, language, customs and climate are different to the homeland. Issues such as poverty and victimisation or racism can be challenges too - and the whole lot is very difficult for the new citizen to take on board. The idea of belonging is very important to people and everyone seems to need that feeling of security, even if it is a case of embracing a new nation gratefully and declaring it to be one's new true home. Young people often get over these difficult issues quicker than the elderly as they are more malleable due to their youth and ability to make new young friends quickly, so absorbing the new culture.

Click here to access guides for thinking critically about picture books.

Click on the “Librarything” link to see the books on “belonging” we have in the library.

‘Belonging’ picture books reviewed in ‘Metaphor’, the journal of the English Teachers Association of NSW:

The Fox

The concept of belonging in relation to ownership and interpersonal contexts is explored in Wild’s story; an allegorical tale involving a fox, a dog and a magpie.  Click here to access the publisher’s notes about the book.

Lukes Way of Looking

Feeling as though he cannot belong or be appreciated at school, Luke skips school and finds his way into an art gallery where he instantly feels at home.  Click here to access a website discussing the book.

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The Sound of Colours

Liao shows a journey from the mind’s eye of a blind girl as she seeks to find a place where she can belong.

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The Arrival

Shaun Tan’s first silent graphic novel is unique in its ability to convey powerful emotions without the use of any text.  The story of a migrant’s journey, it vividly depicts the sense of alienation and isolation felt by the central character, as well as showing the journey he takes in order to find a geographical and social context in which to locate himself.  Click here to access images from the book as well as Shaun Tan’s commentary.

The Lost Thing

The Lost Thing… is a story about displacement.  The “lost thing” is a gigantic, red, machine-like animal who is found by a young boy on the beach.  Ignored by the boy’s parents despite its startling appearance, the lost thing is presented to the reader amidst a harsh industrial background which wants to rid itself of all misplaced things.  Click here to access Shaun Tan’s web site and here to visit the short film website.

O’Connor, K. (2008) Thinking about the HSC Area of Study: Belonging (with reference to related picture books) Metaphor (2). 36-38
Note: For a copy of this article, see Mrs Howe or Mrs Antoniak in the Library

More Picture Book Ideas:

Obtain picture book reviews by searching the Magpies and Literature Base magazines here.  Find out which magazines contain the reviews you want then see library staff for copies.

Home and Away

Written by John Marsden and illustrated by Matt Ottley, the full impact of this book cannot be described.  It gives new meanining to the notion of “walking a mile in someone’s shoes”.

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Belonging

A companion book to “Window”.  This book is a celebration of community and illustrates, with minute attention to detail, the blossoming of an urban landscape under the care of the people who live in it.

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Gordon’s Got A Snookie

Gordon’s arrival at the zoo is eagerly anticipated by the whole zoo community.  When he doesn’t meet expectations, fitting in becomes problematic.

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The Island

A thought provoking book that looks at how an insular community reacts when a stranger in need appears.

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Way Home

Shane’s home is in the city; he knows which alleys to be careful of, the best trees to climb for the views and the people who work in the streets at night.

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Mutt Dog

Mutt Dog is brave and fast and smart, he has to be in order to survive.     This is a story about finding somewhere to belong.
Recommended by Mrs Elliot

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Ziba Came on a Boat

A refugee story with lyrical language and evocative images.  This book was inspired by the author’s contact with Hazara refugees from Afghanistan.

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Home

In 2005, two peregrine falcons made built their nest in the heart of the city of Brisbane.  This event made print and television news headlines and inspired Narelle Oliver’s book “Home”.

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