Children’s Book Review – Sorry Day

‘We say sorry!’ said the man

Sorry Day is the Winner of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) 2019 Book of the Year Eve Pownall Award for Information Books and was also the Winner of the 2018 Speech Pathology Book of the Year – Best Book for Language and Literacy Development Indigenous Children Award. Author Coral Vass wanted to give children a small understanding of the devastation and grief felt by the Indigenous children taken away from their parents.

written by Coral Vass and illustrated by Dub Leffler.

Abstract

Long ago and not so long ago, the children were
taken away, their sorrow echoing across the land.

But today there is hope. Today is special.
The crowd hums with excitement. Maggie and
her mother wait, and then they hear the words:

‘To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers
and the sisters … we say sorry!’

Sorry Day acknowledges the past and shows
willingness to make things right.

Review

Source of image from ‘Sorry Day’ – National Library of Australia

Sorry Day is a powerful and important picture book because it will help children to understand the grief of the children who were taken from their homes. And the importance of saying sorry.

Two inextricably connected stories entwine in this story of the day when then Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd formally said ‘sorry’ on behalf of the Australian government over the Stolen Generations. In the present a young girl named Maggie and her mother are waiting with thousands of others who have gathered to hear the apology, while in the past young children are being taken away from their homes and families and culture. 

The two stories unfold and are revealed on alternate page spreads. Sepia coloured illustrations represent the past and contrast with more brightly coloured pictures in soft pencil and watercolours on white backgrounds depicting the present. A foldout flap at the end of the book brings the two stories together.

When Maggie is separated from her mother in the crowd, even though only momentarily, she is fearful and scared. This contrasts significantly with the children of the past who were put in the back of trucks by white men and taken away.

Dub Leffler’s life-like illustrations are vivid and memorable. His emotive images are a reminder of why ‘sorry’ needed to be said in the first place. For instance, he manages to capture the fear on the children’s faces as they hide silently in the thick mud. These images are quite haunting.

While the text is quite sparse, it is powerful, and it brings to light the trauma and pain inflicted on Indigenous families as their children were taken from them. From the terrified parents telling the children to hide, to the trembling children whose screams echoed across the land as they scrambled to escape, to the land wailing as the children were herded onto the back of a truck. Only billowing dust is left behind as the children are taken away. Above all, this narrative is emotive and heartfelt.

At the back of this highly recommended picture book, photographs of the speech at Parliament House have been included, along with facts about the Stolen Generations and the events that led to the national apology. 

Story Box Library

You can view a reading of Sorry Day by actor Trevor Jamieson. It includes an introduction and afterword from former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. This project was assisted by the Australian government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.