low-res image as
fair use for
The Arrival was published as a children's book, but I can't imagine what I would have made of it as a child, as there are depths of allusion in it that only adult readers will appreciate (for instance, despite the alien fixtures, the depot where the arriving immigrants are processed is closely modelled on Ellis Island). In the afterword, Shaun Tan notes homages such as Tom Roberts' painting Coming South (miscredited as Going South) and Gustave Doré's Over London by Rail; the actual storyline draws on anecdotes from two books - The Immigrants by Lowenstein and Loh, and Tales from a Suitcase by Davies and Dal Bosco - along with other sources including the experiences of Tan's own father, who came from Malaysia to Western Australia in 1960.
The book could be mildly criticised for its feelgood assumption that immigrants from different cultures will be sympathetic to each other (allegorically, in its New World, even the hybrid animals - tadpole-dog, owl-dragon-cat and bird-fish - are mutually friendly). However, this is a tiny quibble. It's a strange, beautiful and moving book: I highly recommend it.
See shauntan.net for more about the author. The Arrival page has samplers of the book's artwork and short commentary on the creative process behind it; the companion volume, Sketches from a Nameless Land, looks rather nice. The site features other interesting material such as PICTURE BOOKS: Who Are They For?, an essay debunking the idea that picture books are only for children. See also the Amazon.co.uk preview.