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From The Asian Reporter, V13, #43 (October 21-27, 2003), page 4.

Shining Wisdom

My Name Is Yoon
By Helen Recorvits

Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003
Hardcover, 32 pages, $16.00

By Josephine Bridges

"My name is Yoon. I came here from Korea, a country far away." So begins this captivating and believable story of a child’s struggle with a new culture. Yoon, whose name means Shining Wisdom, doesn’t like the look of her name in English. "Lines. Circles. Each standing alone." But when her father hands her a pencil, "his eyes said Do-as-I-say. He showed me how to print every letter of the English alphabet."

In school, Yoon writes not her name, but CAT. "I wanted to be cat. I wanted to hide in a corner. My mother would find me and cuddle up close to me. I would close my eyes and mew quietly." Yoon’s teacher, frowning, asks, "So you are CAT?" The next day Yoon writes BIRD, and the teacher shakes her head and asks, "So you are bird?" But when Yoon writes CUPCAKE, her teacher says, "And today you are CUPCAKE! and smiles a very big smile. Her eyes said I-like-this-girl-Yoon."

Helen Recorvits’ story isn’t bad, but Gabi Swiatkowska’s illustrations give it wings. Yoon, whose face has far too much character to be cute, is depicted gripping a pencil, her eyes focused on what she is writing, her lips poised as if making the sound. The illustrator takes a chance with dizzying perspectives of Yoon’s black-and-white checkerboard floor, and it works. A child’s calves and bare feet dangle from the top of the last picture, another youngster’s eye peeks up from the bottom of the page, as Yoon, her back to the reader, runs toward another girl in a yellow dunce-cap. With a deft touch, the illustrator conveys the surrealism of any childhood, but particularly a recent immigrant’s.

All the characters in My Name Is Yoon are portrayed as tolerant and determined. If only the lives of all the four- to eight-years-olds for whom this story was written were filled with family, teachers, and friends modeling these admirable qualities.

 

To buy me, visit these retailers:

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