Goodes and O'Loughlin launch Stories for Simon
"The story resonates with us as we strongly support its message – one of understanding and remembering the past in order to create a brighter future for all Australians."
Adam Goodes and Michael O'Loughlin
Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin believe that a new superbly written and beautifully illustrated children’s book, Stories for Simon, has the power to make Australia a more tolerant society.
Written by Lisa Miranda Sarzin and illustrated by Lauren Briggs, the book tells the story of a carefree boy named Simon who learns about the Stolen Generations and the National Apology at school. Along with his classmates he struggles to understand how and why children were taken away from their families.
Simon meets an Indigenous elder who entrusts the story of her childhood to him. By hearing a first-hand account of her forced removal from her family, Simon gains a deep appreciation of what happened to the Stolen Generations.
The idea for the book germinated in February, 2008, at the time of the National Apology as non-Indigenous Australians and mothers of young children, Lisa and Lauren, thought deeply about the trauma of the forcible separations and the continuing pain of those affected by this government policy and action.
They asked themselves: ‘What does the apology mean to all Australians, and where to from here? What should we be teaching our children about the past and what it means for us?’ Lisa and Lauren decided to take these big issues and transform them into a story that children could readily grasp.
From the beginning Lisa and Lauren were privileged to have the guidance of well-known Bidjigal elder, Vic Simms. Vic was an inspiring mentor, ensuring that the text and illustrations were respectful of and sensitive to the subject matter.
"Lauren and I had many conversations with Vic about how important this book is in terms of bringing about greater understanding of our nation’s past and sharing a vision of hope for the future," Lisa says.
In Vic’s Foreword to the book, he states: "This story speaks of love and understanding and the coming together of two cultures. Unless this meeting of cultures starts in children’s minds, we can never have true reconciliation. I believe this book will generate interest, understanding and reconciliation for the future, starting with the minds of children and by telling a story that is seen through their innocent eyes."
When Goodes and O’Loughlin read Stories for Simon, they immediately loved it and wanted to support it. "The story resonates with us as we strongly support its message – one of understanding and remembering the past in order to create a brighter future for all Australians. In this way the GO Foundation and the message of the book are very much aligned," they said.
Since the publication of the book earlier this month, it has been met with an enthusiastic response from children and parents, as well as teachers and librarians.
Suzy Wilson, founder of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, said: ‘If we want our libraries to contain books that represent our history and culture, then we need more books like Stories for Simon. This book is an important and welcome addition to school libraries and bookshelves everywhere. It will provoke important conversations between parents and children, in classrooms and throughout the community."
Barbara Braxton, Teacher Librarian, said "accompanied by strong, dynamic and unique illustrations which support the text, this is a story of reconciliation and hope for the future, with a stunning ending that is just perfect."
To read the full article, click here
Buzz Words Magazine
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Muller
17 June 2015
Stories for Simon represents more than just a beautifully conceptualised picture book, but a foray to discuss social and cultural issues, mutual respect and the importance of reconciliation and positivity in looking forward.
Lisa Miranda Sarzin and Lauren Biggs have created a respectful contemporary reflection on Australia’s Stolen Generations that balances delicately between fiction and non-fiction.
Written under the mentorship of Bidjigal Elder, Vic Simms, Sarzin and Biggs skilfully explain the story of Simon who, through a gift of a boomerang, comes to understand the history of the Stolen Generations, the significance of reconciliation and the lessons that all future Australian children can learn in order to pave a harmonious, meaningful society.
Simon’s passage is told in a contemplative, well-researched tone that sees him interacting with his family, school and a boy named Vic who is able to introduce Simon to his own family’s history as part of the Stolen Generations. Each relationship reinforces Simon’s understanding of reconciliation and the significance of Kevin Rudd’s apology on behalf of Australia in 2008.
Despite the delicate nature of the text, Stories for Simon is united with the evocative illustrations by Lauren Biggs. The use of strong primary colours is unexpected and presents a new way of documenting Australian stories which are typically reliant on warm hues. The pages related to the telling of Aboriginal Dreamtime and Simon’s own dreams are whimsical but graphically strong.
Stories for Simon is the first picture book for both Sarzin and Biggs yet all their royalties will be donated to the GO Foundation, an educational initiative to support Indigenous Australian children founded by 2014 Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes and his cousin Michael O’Loughlin.
School libraries will find this an essential part of their collection. The prospects for discussion and project work around reconciliation themes are extensive, while inspiring children to contemplate what Australia they wish to create.
OZTL_NET; Three Rs; NSWTL
Reviewed by Barbara Braxton - Teacher Librarian
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 inA 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 signifcance with comprehensive teaching notes available at http://www.randomhouse.com.au/content/teachers/storiesforsimon.pdf
We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate
NAIDOC theme 2015
Reviewed by Sue Warren
17 June 2015
Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations in February 2008 was momentous for all Australians – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. And it is critically important that we teach our children the significance of this in order to nurture the healing in a meaningful way and to promote a positive future for all our people.
This beautifully written and illustrated book is destined to be a key title in this educative process for younger children as the collaborators (and long-time friends) transform the huge issues surrounding this acknowledgement of a dark time in our nation’s history into a story that even small children can readily grasp.
Simon collects many beautiful things such as shells and feathers and fossils. When he is sent a boomerang as a gift to start a new collection, he immediately takes it to school to show everyone. The old newspaper in which it is wrapped becomes the focus of many questions as the teacher spots these words “For the pain, suffering and hurt, we say SORRY”. After the class’ discussion about this tragic history, Simon’s thoughts and dreams reflect his new knowledge. A dream of raining ‘sorry’ stones becomes a reality and the beginning of a new friendship, a new ‘collection’ of special stories and a new appreciation of First Australians’ past.
Sarzin and Briggs were mentored throughout the creative process by Indigenous Elder Vic Simms, ensuring that both text and illustrations were sensitively handled with all due respect. He says ‘I believe this book will generate interest, understanding and reconciliation for the future, starting with the minds of children and by telling a story that is seen through their innocent eyes.’
Suzy Wilson, founder of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, states ‘This book is a welcome and important addition to school libraries and bookshelves everywhere. It will provoke important conversations between parents and children, in classrooms and throughout the community’.
Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, Michael O’Loughlin and the Goodes O’Loughlin (GO) Foundatio endorse the book and all royalties will be donated to the Foundation.
Find teaching notes here.
Reconciliation Week Reviews
Reviewed by Dimity Powell
1 June 2015
‘Narragunnawali’ – peace, alive, wellbeing and coming together. A word that lies at the heart of Reconciliation in Schools and Early Learning and aims to ‘increase respect; reduce prejudice and strengthen relationships between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’ With National Reconciliation Week in full swing (27 May to 3 June), it’s high time we celebrate the wealth of gifted indigenous artists that go to great pains to share their histories and cultures. Here is but a smattering of titles that embrace imagination and time honoured fable telling.
Although not of indigenous background, debut picture book team, Lisa Miranda Sarzin and Lauren Briggs have united to produce Stories for Simon, ‘a story of a shared dream and bright future’.
Simon is your typical Sydney nine-year-old boy who one day, through his show and tell presentation, stumbles upon the moment in history when an apology to the Stolen Generation was finally voiced. As this sparks discussion and learning in Simon’s classroom, so too will this sensitive narrative encourage interest and understanding in school children as it outlines what the Stolen Generation is and why saying sorry is just the start of the journey towards ‘peace and coming together’. Filled with tangible emotion and magic, Stories for Simon reveals tragedies and fosters empathy in a brave, provocative coming together of two cultures.
This picture book provides another crucial element in the quest to procure and sustain reconciliation amongst our future generations and thus is an excellent introduction to it.