Book review: Stories for Simon

by Lisa Miranda Sarzin, illustrated by Lauren Briggs (Random House)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 9780857987440
Reviewed by Jaquelyn Muller

Published with permission from Buzz Words

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.