Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, by Margriet Ruurs (2016)

Picture Book
3-10, with appeal for all ages
Stepping Stones by Margriet RuursWhen Canadian picture book author Margriet Ruurs first saw Nizar Ali Badr’s artwork made of river stones, she was instantly captivated. How could a handful of river rock speak so eloquently? But they do! And Orca Books’ pairing of Ruurs’ touching narrative with Badr’s art has resulted in a stunning picture book that will delight readers of all ages. The book opens with Rama and Sami enjoying childhood in Syria, a life of school and fruit and tea and family and neighbours. But when bombs start to fall, the community breaks apart. “People began to leave our village. First a trickle, then a stream, across dusty fields under a burning sun, a stream driven by hope.” Eventually Rama and her family, after walking “to the end of the earth,” climb aboard a boat and find a new land of hope and freedom. This is a dual-language book, with text in English and Arabic, translated by Falah Raheem. The story itself is touching, accessible for very young readers yet powerful and compelling for adults who understand the human tragedy and see the sorrow and fear behind Rama’s words. But the illustrations – they are truly spectacular. Badr lives in Syria, and has a rooftop studio where he creates art with stones he collects on a beach. To give you a sense of the emotion his splendid art evokes, here is just one image from the book, in larger format so you can appreciate the detail. This accompanies the text that reads, in part, “A river of strangers in search of a place to be free” …
Image from Stepping Stones This book has already earned a starred Kirkus Review and named to Kirkus’ Best of 2016. More awards are coming for this astonishing creation. A photo of gently rounded river stones is used on the binding’s endpapers, and I found myself lingering over the picture at both start and finish. The book includes an illustrated three-page foreword by Ruurs, explaining the genesis of the book, and how a portion of profits are used to support refugee, thanks to Orca Books.
More discussion and reviews of this picture book:


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