Hayoung Yim, The Girl Who Said Sorry. Illustrated by Marta Maszkiewicz
Published 2017 by Rhyming Reason Books, 34p
I grew up in a country where as a child I was told to stay quiet because I knew nothing and do as grown-ups dictated me, no matter I liked it or not. I am thirty seven now and I am still nervous when I have to speak publicly; and it is not because I am shy. But I look at my daughter and her friends growing up in a society that encourages individuality and freedom of choice and I couldn’t be happier how beautifully they engage and communicate. Respecting some rules, of course.
When Hayoung Yim sent me The Girl Who Said Sorry I spent a whole morning reading and re-reading it, recalling memories and thinking again of how important education and support are for children. There are so many expectations they face that often they end up losing confidence and direction, mimicking something that they are not. And for finding their own way children should not apologize to parents, institutions or society.
The Girl Who Said Sorry is Hayoung Yim’s first picture book and it focuses on the idea that we are not born with sets of values and principles but become unique individuals according to our choices and life experiences. Her voice is a small girl overwhelmed by the contradicting instructions she receives from adults – when she wears too much pink she is told to change clothes to be immediately accused of being too boyish; when playing outside and having dirty clothes she is reminded that she has to be a lady and when encouraged to become a winner she is prompted not to make other people feel miserable. So for every decision she had taken she apologized.
“You should speak your mind”, they said/ Then told me, “but don’t be bossy’./ So I said sorry.
“It’s good to ask questions”,/ “But start with ‘Sorry’ or ‘Excuse me’.”/ So I said sorry.
When realizing that saying sorry too often makes the word lose its meaning and devaluates herself as an entity, the girl decides to assume the mistakes she makes as part of her personal growth and move forward, apologizing only when needed.
If something is my fault, /If it was within my powers/
I will own up to my mistakes/ Without ever being sour.
But for my words and choices/ That don’t hurt anybody else/
I will not say “Sorry” – / They’re an expression of myself.
Simple, poetical, powerful.
Complement The Girl Who Said Sorry with Michael Hall’s Red. A Crayon’s Story, a book that speaks about identity and Sarah Bee’s The Yes, a bold story on self-confidence and the importance of a positive mind.