Getting to feel at home in a new country
Yoon's name means "shining wisdom," and when she writes it in Korean, it looks happy, like dancing figures. But her father tells her that she must learn to write it in English. In English, all the lines and circles stand alone, which is just how Yoon feels in the United States. Yoon isn't sure that she wants to be YOON. At her new school, she tries out different names—maybe CAT or BIRD. Maybe CUPCAKE!
Helen Recorvits's spare and inspiring story about a little girl finding her place in a new country is given luminous pictures filled with surprising vistas and dreamscapes by Gabi Swiatkowska.
My Name Is Yoon is a Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year.
I grew up in a small city much like the town in Goodbye, Walter Malinski. My grandparents were immigrants from Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine, and my parents were children during the Depression years. Determination and hope got them through those difficult times. Even though they experienced many hardships, they always found something to smile about.
I remember my mother reading to me when I was two years old. My favorite book was about Cinderella. She wore a beautiful pink-and-white gown that looked like a great big birthday cake. I began writing my own stories and sharing them with my cousins when I was eight years old. When I was a teenager, I wrote a weekly column for a local newspaper. Later, I graduated from Rhode Island College with degrees in education and psychology.
Today I live with my husband in the peaceful, woodsy town of Glocester, Rhode Island. I have two grown sons, and I am a second-grade teacher. I love reading and writing stories about interesting characters -- people trying to find their place in life, people with hope in their hearts.
If you’re born on this planet, you’re set for a colorful life, whether you want it or not. I found myself in Eastern Europe, in southern Poland, in a little village with a weird name.
I don’t remember making that decision.
The first thing I remember are the crows. Crows are to Poland what ravens are to London. The crows would hold daily conferences right in front of my house, spreading their black selves like a carpet over the grassy field. I’d run up to them and watch them rise like a shimmering giant, watch the sky swallow them up.
I wrote stories until it was decided that there was too much kissing going on—in the stories, of course, not in real life. I was forbidden to write any more. I drew pictures, of princesses mostly. As there were no objections, I kept at it all through elementary school, gymnasium, college, and right into my professional life.
While at elementary school, I really did believe I was a princess. Not the Disney kind, but one more along the lines of a Russian folktale, the princess lost and never found, waiting patiently for the day it was officially announced.
I entered the Lyceum of Art at fourteen and discovered it was full of princesses, as well as knights. Sometime around the third year of school it dawned on me that if I was the “lost and never found” kind of princess, there was no use waiting for the official announcement. So I climbed on top of my wardrobe to take a look at things from a different perspective and decided it was time to go to America.
I took my dog with me. My dog was very fond of eating toilet paper, and since we had no such commodity in Poland at the time, I figured he’d do better in America. Plus, I couldn’t bear to leave him behind.
Gabi Swiatkowska was born in Tychy, Poland, and attended the Lyceum of Art in Bielsko-Biala, as well as the Cooper Union School of Art in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
“* With subtle grace, this moving story depicts a Korean girl's difficult adjustment to her new life in America. . . . Swiatkowska's stunningly spare, almost surrealistic paintings enhance the story's message.” —School Library Journal, starred review
“* As noteworthy for what it leaves out as for what it includes. . . . Yoon may be new to America, but her feelings as an outsider will be recognizable to all children.” —Publishers Weekly, starred reivew