Subscribe to The Horn Book

Arrival spoilers

cherThe question is, how can I talk about Arrival without giving anything away? Well, go and come back, if you’ll allow me to allude to Joan Abelove’s 1998 novel (which I would love to see read through a lens of today’s conversations about social identity). And while you’re gone, re-read Shaun Tan’s The Arrival as well, because, if I can meta-meta this for a minute, the two Arrivals speak to each other.

***Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers***


Social identity is a big theme of Arrival, and an old theme of science fiction: what will humanity do to itself when confronted by visitors from the stars? Will we unite or will we destroy ourselves, done in by our inability to understand one another, never mind the aliens? Those scenes of Amy Adams and Tzi Ma bridging the divide were pure melodrama but oh-so-satisfying.

I loved all the movie’s ideas about language and how much it constructs our reality, but I did feel like it, er, glossed over just how she learned the alien language. And it wasn’t until I was sitting afterwards in J.P. Seafood with Richard and Wikipedia, that I could really put together the timeline of the story. But some of those Fringe-y moments, like when she opens the box and it contains multiple copies of her own textbook about the alien language, were so cool, like Philippa Pearce’s Tom reverse-engineering himself the pair of skates from Hattie. “Time no longer” indeed.

Tom’s Midnight Garden is definitely my favorite time-travel novel, and my go-to movie in the genre is Source Code (although Arrival is more thinky). What are your favorites?

P.S. And, um, Cher? We’re totally with you.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Oh boy, I truly adore this movie and am thrilled to see it featured here in this context. One of the best pictures of the year for me, and that stunningly beautiful minimalist score is still in my head over a week later.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind