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My Name Is Yoon Hardcover – Apr 3 2003
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From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 2-With subtle grace, this moving story depicts a Korean girl's difficult adjustment to her new life in America. Yoon, or "Shining Wisdom," decides that her name looks much happier written in Korean than in English ("I did not like YOON. Lines. Circles. Each standing alone"). Still, she struggles to please her parents by learning an unfamiliar language while surrounded by strangers. Although her teacher encourages her to practice writing "Yoon," the child substitutes other words for her name, words that better express her inner fears and hopes. Calling herself "CAT," she dreams of hiding in a corner and cuddling with her mother. As "BIRD," she imagines herself flying back to Korea. Finally, she pretends she is "CUPCAKE," an identity that would allow her to gain the acceptance of her classmates. In the end, she comes to accept both her English name and her new American self, recognizing that however it is written, she is still Yoon. Swiatkowska's stunningly spare, almost surrealistic paintings enhance the story's message. The minimally furnished rooms of Yoon's home are contrasted with views of richly hued landscapes seen through open windows, creating a dreamlike quality that complements the girl's playful imaginings of cats on the chalkboard, trees growing on walls, and a gleeful flying cupcake. At first glance, Yoon seems rather static, but her cherubic face reveals the range of her feelings, from sadness and confusion to playfulness, and finally pride. A powerful and inspiring picture book.
Teri Markson, Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School, Los Angeles
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
K-Gr. 2. "I wanted to go back home to Korea. I did not like America. Everything was different here." Yoon doesn't want to learn the new ways. Her simple, first-person narrative stays true to the small immigrant child's bewildered viewpoint, and Swiatkowska's beautiful paintings, precise and slightly surreal, capture her sense of dislocation. Reminiscent of the work of Allen Say, the images set close-ups of the child at home and at school against traditional American landscapes distanced through window frames. In a classroom scene many children will relate to, everything is stark, detailed, and disconnected--the blackboard, the teacher's gestures, one kid's jeering face--a perfect depiction of the child's alienation. By the end, when Yoon is beginning to feel at home, the teacher and children are humanized, the surreal becomes playful and funny instead of scary, and Yoon is happy with friends in the wide, open school yard. Now she is part of the landscape. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Yoon isn't exactly thrilled to be in America. Wherever she looks, she sees that life is different in this strange new land. In Korea, where Yoon was born, her name meant Shining Wisdom. Despite her father's assurances that it means the same thing here, Yoon isn't so sure. And then there's the fact that when she writes her name using English characters, it's just a series of sticks and circles, whereas in Korean, "The symbols dance together". She's right. They do. Yoon carries her unhappiness to school where each day she learns a new word and makes that her name. One day it's cat. Another it's bird. Still another (and most amusingly) it's cupcake. In the end, Yoon learns to like her new country, supposing perhaps that maybe that being different can be good too. And in the end, she embraces her real name. "It still means Shining Wisdom".
I hate summarizing picture books where the plot, when written down, sounds so much hokier than it feels on the page. What I've just written sounds nice but bland. The book is anything but bland. Yoon's a distinct and remarkable character. With each new name she adopts, she becomes that object in her dreams. For example, when she becomes BIRD she wishes she could fly back to Korea once again. The book also skips what I've come to feel is the obligatory foreign-child-gets-teased sequence. The kind of thing you tend to find in books like, "Molly's Pilgrim". I was grateful for the oversight. "My Name Is Yoon" is tackling more important problems here. The acceptance of one's own self in a foreign environment, for example. Becoming your own name. Becoming your own self. What could be greater than this?
The pictures, for their part, don't hurt. Artist Gabi Swiatkowska is perhaps best known for this book and the title, "Silk Umbrellas" by Carolyn Marsden. "My Name Is Yoon" is good as a story, yes. But the Yoon we see here is a complex original human being. A one-of-a-kind gal. When her imagination soars it takes off like nothing else, aided by Swiatkowska's realistic images. I especially liked looking at the pictures of her in her home. Here, the black and white tiles of the floor bend and twist in strangely surreal patterns. I'll be honest with you, though. The book could've been awful and I still would have loved it just so long as it continued to contain the picture of Yoon floating through her classroom window as a delicious fluffy cupcake.
Realism is what grounds "My Name Is Yoon". Surrealism sets it apart from the rabble. If you're stocking your personal library with only the most essential picture books out there, you'd be doing yourself a disservice not to include this truly delightful title.
She decides that she would like to go back to Korea because everything is different in America. Every day at school, her nice teacher asks her to write her name on a paper, and Yoon instead writes a different word that she has recently learned. The beautiful illustrations go along with these words, showing Yoon as a bird, cat, and cupcake. In the end Yoon realizes that perhaps America will be a good home, and that, "maybe different is good."
A great story for children to read, to aid in understanding and acceptance.
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