Recommended for middle to upper primary students, Years 3-6, ages 7-11.
Stories for Simon – A tale of friendship and reconciliation by Lisa Miranda Sarzin and illustrated by Lauren Briggs is a powerful and moving story that explores the importance of learning about Australia’s true history, acknowledging the truths and beginning a shared journey of reconciliation. It is a story about Australia’s Stolen Generations and a story to share knowledge. Lisa and Lauren were inspired to write this story after hearing the National Apology by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the Indigenous peoples on behalf of the Australian government. They noticed at the time of this speech that children had questions about the Stolen Generations. This book is a way to start conversations and help children understand that we all have a role to play in being educated about the past to develop understanding and compassion to begin a journey towards a hopeful future.
In this book we meet Simon, who resides in Sydney and is an avid collector of precious treasure he finds at the beach or on a walk. His caring Uncle surprises him with a gift for his collection – a boomerang wrapped in a sheet of newspaper. Simon brings the boomerang to school and the newspaper it is wrapped in captures the teacher’s attention. The newspaper contains excerpts from Kevin Rudd’s speech and some of these are included in a few of the illustrations. The teacher explains the newspaper article and this then has the class pondering the word “sorry”. The students quickly became curious and begin asking more questions about being sorry and “what are we sorry for?”. The teacher sensitively begins talking about the Stolen Generations. Simon goes home and asks his Mum more about this and Simon further contemplates the word sorry. His Mum shares that it is important to be sorry and to acknowledge the past, remember injustices and be a part of ensuring they are not repeated. This helps gives a sense of perspective to Simon and helps him understand even though he did not directly cause the hurt in the past, we all have a role to play in our own journeys of shared reconciliation by acknowledging and learning about the past.
That night Simon dreams about the word sorry and his dream contains a “sorry stone storm” where there is a downpour of stones, with each stone featuring the word sorry written on it. The symbolism of the stones gives some insight into Simon’s feelings about the Stolen Generations. When Simon wakes up, his room contains the stones he dreamt about. Simon with his stones in tow, then meets Vic at the beach. Vic suggests that these stones might have a purpose and invites Simon to see his Aunty Betty who he believes will know what to do with the stones. Aunty Betty suggests that she will exchange a story for a stone. Aunty Betty shares creation stories and used the final stone to tell her story when she was a little girl and taken from her family. She explains to Simon what the word “sorry” means. Simon and Vic leave Aunty Betty’s house as new friends each with a promise to share different aspects of their culture. That night Simon has another dream which proves to be a beautiful and hopeful ending to this story.
The whimsical illustrations add another layer to the story and allow the reader to connect with the text through the lens of a young innocent boy. Lauren Briggs has combined her illustrations she drew with the laborious process of etching to bring emotion to the illustrations.
This story contains a foreword by Vic Simms, an elder of the Bidjigal nation who collaborated with the creators of this book to consult about the Aboriginal content and Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year in 2014. Lisa and Lauren are donating their royalties for this book to the Goodes O’Loughlin Foundation (GO).
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