My Name Is Yoon

Overview

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!

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Overview

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.

Disliking her name as written in English, Korean-born Yoon, or "shining wisdom," refers to herself as "cat," "bird," and "cupcake," as a way to feel more comfortable in her new school and new country.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* "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

Publishers Weekly
"My name is Yoon. I came here from Korea, a country far away," begins Recorvits's (Goodbye, Walter Malinski) first-person narrative, as noteworthy for what it leaves out as for what it includes. Swiatkowska's (Hannah's Bookmobile Christmas) opening spread similarly conveys a sense of starkness, with a landscape of rolling hills and towering trees in small clusters; the serene narrator appears in a white dress. With a turn of the page, readers see Yoon dwarfed by the seemingly endless checked flooring of her new American house. She sits at a large white table where her father teaches her to write her name in English ("I did not like YOON. Lines. Circles. Each standing alone. My name looks happy in Korean. The symbols dance together"). At school, Yoon refuses to write her name. Instead, she fills her paper with other words she learns from the teacher, such as cat. "I wrote CAT on every line. I wanted to be CAT.... My mother would find me and cuddle up close to me." Yoon's words betray her sadness and insecurity at relinquishing some of her Korean identity, while Swiatkowska's painterly artwork translates the girl's fantasies. A close-up of Yoon's face shows feline ears protruding from her jet-black hair, while in the background, a real cat balances on a window sill. A turning point comes when a classmate offers Yoon a cupcake, and the heroine imagines herself as one; her round face a leafed cherry atop the pastry as she floats above the classroom. Yoon may be new to America, but her feelings as an outsider will be recognizable to all children. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Yoon does not want to learn how to write her name in English. Her family recently moved to America from Korea and she is homesick. Yoon does not want to lose her culture by writing her name in English. In Korean, the characters of her name look happy and "dance together," while her name in English consists of lines and circles, "each standing alone." Yoon struggles with the cultural differences while she is in school and avoids writing her name in English. Instead Yoon writes the names of objects she sees such as cats, birds and cupcakes. Yoon imagines herself as each of these things, which gives her a sense of security, freedom and acceptance. The illustrations vividly reflect Yoon's thoughts. Yoon soon realizes she will not relinquish her Korean identity by writing her name in English. This understanding is reinforced through the illustrations as they reflect her eventual cultural balance. This transformation is a bit premature, but the themes of acknowledging and accepting differences while preserving individuality offer positive reinforcements for children from multiple cultural backgrounds. 2003, Farrar Straus and Giroux, Ages 4 to 8.
—Skye Suttie
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-A Korean child, feeling at odds in her American school, tries out various personas before accepting her English name. The stunning oil paintings reveal the girl's active imagination, positive attitude, and shining wisdom. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An unhappy young immigrant seeks, and at last regains, a sense of self in this atmospheric, expressionistically illustrated episode. Instead of writing her own name on her papers at school, Yoon calls herself "Cat," then "Bird"-"I wanted to be BIRD. I wanted to fly, fly back to Korea"-and even, after a classmate's friendly culinary overture, "Cupcake." Ultimately, she finds her balance again: "I write my name in English now. It still means Shining Wisdom." Swiatkowska internalizes Yoon's adjustment, both by depicting her escape fantasies literally, and by placing figures against expanses of wall that are either empty of decoration, or contain windows opening onto distant, elaborate landscapes. Reminiscent of Allen Say's work for its tone, theme, and neatly drafted, often metaphorical art, this strongly communicates Yoon's feelings in words and pictures both. She is also surrounded by supportive adults, and her cultural heritage, though specified, is given such a low profile that she becomes a sort of everychild, with whom many young readers faced with a similar sense of displacement will identify. (Picture book. 8-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250057112
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 6/10/2014
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 670,769
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

HELEN RECORVITS and GABI SWIATKOWSKA have collaborated on three books about Yoon. My Name Is Yoon was named an ALA Notable Book, among other honors, and Ms. Swiatkowska received the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award for her artwork. Ms. Recorvits lives in North Scituate, Rhode Island. Ms. Swiatkowska lives in France.

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