The Arrival by Shaun Tan


This is a wordless story.

The story depicts a world being taken over images-8by a mysterious shadowed demon. The detail in the facial expressions show the fear people have towards this “thing” and the deserted town shows that many have already fled.

The story follows a man who leaves behind his family and goes in search of a new life overseas.

He encounters many difficulties in the new country. His first obstacle is the interview process to gain entry, followed by his inability to speak the local language. Once in, he finds shelter within a boarding house, where he meets a strange new creature (which becomes his pet).

He meets several other refugees, who each tell their story of fleeing desperate circumstances to find a new life. These include; a young girl, who was enslaved, an old man, who returned from war to a desolate and deserted hometown, another whose town was destroyed by Giants with flame torches.

He works hard to find a job and to understand the local food and eventually, he is able to send a message to his family. They join him in the new world and settle together, as before but with a few changes.

The ending shows the man’s daughter helping a new citizen to find their way.

This is a beautifully illustrated text. The detail is brilliant and provides the reader with the ability to see the emotions and the actions of the story.

Activity Ideas

1) Hold a discussion about immigration–Why do people leave their countries? What does it mean to be a traveller? How do you treat new arrivals to our country? Were any of you new to the country?

2) Identify the verbs from the pictures. Create powerful verbs to describe what is happening in the story, then use these in sentences to caption the pictures. Also good for abstract nouns.

3) Write a description of the new world from the point of view of the man.

4) Write a recount of the journey that the man had to make to arrive at his destination.

5) Write from the point of view of the family left behind.

6) Split your class into groups and provide them with identity cards. Each group has to go through the interview process that the man went through. (We split 3 classes into 3 mixed ability groups. Then they moved between 3 activities across the whole morning. 1) An interview where they had to persuade the interviewer to let them into the country. 2) A fitness test where they had to accomplish physical activities to prove themselves. 3) An intelligence test where they proved they would be an asset to the country. We printed stickers with symbols that each teacher knew and didn’t tell the children what they meant this was an easy was to communicate positive/negative behaviours and attitudes between the adults involved in the process, without dropping our role.)


7) “Nouning” game. Describing the city using exciting nouns and noun phrases particularly when describing a group of nouns.

As I look out on the city of _____________below, I spot a choke of chimneys rise above the earth. Despite my overwhelming guilt for leaving my family, for the first time in a long time I felt a sense of hope.


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