Stories for Simon
Lisa Miranda Sarzin
Random House Australia, 2015
hbk., 32pp., RRP $A24.99
Simon lives with his family in a little house in a big city near a famous beach and he loves to collect things. When his uncle sent him a beautifully painted boomerang wrapped in an old newspaper, it is not the boomerang that captures the attention of his teacher during Show and Share but the newspaper itself. For it has a large headline…”For the pain, suffering and hurt, we say SORRY.” The teacher tries to explain what the headline means – the apology by Prime Minister Rudd on February 13, 2008 to all those affected by the Stolen Generations saga – but the word SORRY burns itself into Simon’s brain and that night he dreams he is in the middle of a stone storm, with each stone having SORRY imprinted on it.
The next morning he finds himself surrounded by the stones and he decides to take them to the ocean to throw them in because that’s was the only place he could think of that would be deep and wide enough for them. But as he starts to do so, he meets Vic who suggests that Simon has been given the stones for a reason and if he throws them away, he will never know why. He suggests they take them to his Nan who will know what to do. And Vic’s Nan, Aunty Betty, suggests that they swap each stone for a story. Simon doesn’t believe that anyone could know so many stories but Aunty Betty has many and so she begins to tell Simon and Vic the stories that stretched way back into the very beginning of creation, about animals and people, the land, the sea, the sky and the rain. And when she comes to the last stone, she tells Simon that the last story is about her and what happened to her as a child.
And so Simon truly learns what it meant to be one of the Stolen Generation, taken away from parents and brothers and sisters with only loneliness and fear for companions. And he learns how that word that captured him – SORRY – is the start of the healing after all this time. And while there was a long way to go on the journey, at least the journey had begun.
This is a most powerful and most important story as we try to help our younger generation understand this part of Australia’s history. When Simon’s mum explains that we are saying sorry not because the people of today have done anything wrong or to feel sad or guilty, but to always remember bad things and ensure they don’t happen again, it puts into perspective that train of thought of “What did it have to do with me?”
Accompanied by strong, dynamic and unique illustrations which support the text, this is a story of reconciliation and of hope for the future, with a stunning ending that is just perfect. Simon understands and we must teach our students so they too understand and the healing continues with meaning and sincerity, not just lip service to another day on the calendar. With a foreword by Vic Simms, an Aboriginal elder of the Bidjigal nation and a commendation by Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year 2014, this book meets the rigorous standards suggested for selection by Lorraine McDonald in A Literature Companion as both author and illustrator were guided through the process so the Aboriginal content is accurate, sensitive and respectful. As Suzy Wilson, founder of the Indigenous Literary Foundation says, “This book is an important and welcome addition to school libraries and bookshelves everywhere.” Colleagues Sue Warren and Susan Stephenson have both reviewed this book and endorse this opinion.
As we recognise acknowledge National Sorry Day on May 26, this would be the perfect vehicle to help our students understand its significance with comprehensive teaching notes available.