This book made me cry three times and gasp with pleasure/surprise twice. It has no words. That is irrelevant to its storytelling power.
The book is Shaun Tan’s award-winning The Arrival. Tan’s artwork is phenomenally beautiful. I am emotionally engaged with the characters within the first pages regardless of the lack of dialogue or actual words. I’ve read books that are many thousands of words and not engaged emotionally with a single character. That is the power of the mood and tone and gesture in his drawings.
The book is about migrating to another country. There is a whimsy to the world of the new country – the landscape, the animals, the odd food – that makes the story feel universal.
He drives the story forward with lovely details. Perhaps my favourite is the slow days on the boat travelling across the empty ocean depicted in a series of cloud formations. There is loneliness in this book, and love, and kindness, humour. There is also fear and tragedy.
There is another wordless book that makes me cry. Jeannie Baker’s Window which for some absurd reason I do not own. When my kids were in the ‘read me a story’ age bracket we borrowed this book from the library over and over again. The pictures are intricate beautiful collages. Each page is the view from a window with a birthday card to show the passing of each year. The view from the window changes from a countryside landscape to a cityscape in an unashamed environmental message. Window has been described as picture poem. That is exactly what it is.
There was another children’s book that made me cry. It was about Princess Di. I could not read it allowed to my kids because I bawled every time. Luckily they didn’t like it. I am not sure why I am confessing this to you all. I don’t even care about the royal family!
Do you have a picture book (with or without words) that makes you cry?