Sorry Day by Coral Vass and Dub Lefler

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NLA Publishing, 2018. ISBN 9780642279033
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. Themes: Aboriginal themes, Sorry Day, Aboriginal history, Reconciliation, Apology, Kevin Rudd. Two stories coincide in this beautifully illustrated picture book telling of National Sorry Day celebrated on May 26. The momentous day of February 13, 2008 is the setting of this tale as Maggie and her mother stand amongst the crowd eagerly waiting for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to say sorry to Aboriginal families for what was done to them in the twentieth century taking away their children as a matter of government policy.
In the crowd Maggie loses sight of her mother, and in this way the book parallels the plight of those children forcibly removed. But all is well for Maggie and she is restored to her mother, just in time to hear the Prime Minister utter the words that so many have longed to hear for generations.
This is a deceptively simple story, sparsely told, one that shadows the Stolen Generation in its words and illustrations. Without over telling the tale, students are acquainted with the bare bones: that children were taken - enough to ignite many discussions and stories in the classroom as part of the Australian Curriculum.
The illustrations accompanying the text parallel the words with subtle sincerity. The sepia wash double pages show what happened in the past, reflecting the lifestyle of the groups living in fear of the men in authority coming for their children. In between these pages subdued colours show Maggie and her mother waiting in the crowd, excited by the momentous happenings on that day.
Each double page reflects the difference between Maggie and her mother celebrating with their families and the children of the past being taken. One page has legs hiding Maggie as she loses sight of mum, while the next shows the legs of the authorities rounding up the children. Readers will enjoy recognising these parallels and marvel at the skill of the illustrator, Dub Leffler, a descendant of the people of south west Queensland, the Bigambul and the Mandambarji, underscoring the events of each day
With a foreword by Lee Joachim, Chair of Rumablara Aboriginal Cooperative, a double page spread giving an outline of Sorry Day and its history, and photos on the last pages, the book offers an insight into the celebration of Sorry Day and why it was established, making it a must read for any library and classroom to initiate discussion, inform, delight and educate.
The front cover is stunning, with the colours of the Aboriginal flag subtly forming the background, the young girl focussed on looking ahead and the grasses in one corner offering a link to the past, and I love the fold out page towards the end where all the themes come together, everyone looking forward together. Teacher notes are available on the NLA website.
Fran Knight