Reporting: Shaun Tan Shindigs (Part Two)
(CONTINUED FROM PART ONE)
As for the design of The Arrival, Mr. Tan had this to say, "Everyone’s made a picture book before and it’s called a photo album." Mr. Tan’s own photo albums were certainly an influence on his work. Due to the fact that The Arrival is a tale of immigration, Tan was able to look to his own family members for help and guidance. His father immigrated to Australia from Malaysia before Shaun was born, and his partner is a Finnish immigrant too. Later in the evening, my husband and I discussed the book with Scholastic’s John Mason, and my mate had some good points. He said that sometimes a graphic novel will break down the images into their simplest forms so that the can be considered "universal" and easy to understand by all audiences. What Shaun Tan has done, however, is precisely the opposite. He complicates matters, and makes them difficult for everyone to understand and THAT is why everybody can read the book and understand it. Our confusion is intentional and shared by everyone else we know. How brilliant is that?
There are reoccurring images in the book, like nests (birds being animals that constantly emigrate). I didn’t really realize how true this was until I had a chance to reread the book myself. And the language in The Arrival turned out to be cut up Times New Roman letters, rearranged on a page! Fancy that!
After his speech was done I didn’t get a chance to ask Mr. Tan any more questions, but that was okay. He was going to be speaking at the Donnell Lit Cafe that Saturday anyway, and I’d see him then. Fast forward to last Saturday and sure enough, Mr. Tan was there. He was there and he was a smash hit. We got a perfect amount of people (not too many, not too few) and he was gracious and signed books for everyone who came. Whatta guy! I wasn’t able to hear his second speech, but from what I am given to understand it was basically the same stuff. Afterwards I was able to grill him a little more on his plans and where he was headed next.
Ironically, Mr. Tan never had a chance to go to Ellis Island while he was in New York. His scheduling simply didn’t permit it, which is really too bad. I’m not a native New Yorker, and I found Ellis Island far more fascinating than I’d expected when I visited it a couple years ago.
In any case, the man is a true class act. Two thumbs way way up over here.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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