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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey, written by Margriet Ruurs and artwork by Nizar Ali Badr. Translated by Falah Raheem. Orca Publishers, 2016. $20.00 ages 6 and up

"The war came to our country.
Life in the village changed.
Nothing was as it had been.

Soon there was not enough food. "Rama, share this bowl of soup
with Sami."

I feel so blessed to have received a very special book in the mail from Orca recently. I had read about Margriet Ruur's discovery on Facebook of the stone artwork that is so beautifully created by Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr. It took time and a lot of effort for her to finally find and communicate with him, and to have him agree to take part in the creation of this amazing work.

His inspiring artwork compelled the writer to craft a verse story about the plight of the Syrian refugees and their escape from their war-torn country. Rama and her family are forced to flee the village that has always been home to them ... a peaceful and welcome place for all who live there. As the civil war rages ever nearer, Rama's parents make the painful decision to leave all they know and most of what they own behind them. As is the case with so many refugees, they have only what they can carry. Rama, her brother Sami, her parents and her grandfather set out for Europe, a place that offers freedom. Their journey is arduous as we have come to know through media reports and the shared stories of those who have arrived in Canada to begin a new life.

The text is beautifully written, matching the moving storytelling of the artist himself. Written in two languages, English and Arabic, it is a testament to the hard work of the folks at Orca who believed in and supported the project, ensuring that some of the revenue generated will go to helping the plight of refugees. The author has donated most of her royalties and Nizar is now also receiving royalties which have greatly improved the life he lives in his home country.

Our children need to see the world through mirrors and windows. This book offers a look through a window into a world that is unknown to them, and it allows them to respond with empathy and concern for the children of the world who face such tragedy in their young lives.

This is a powerful and poignant book, worthy of being shared with your students and your own children. It deserves your attention! It also allows those Syrian families we have welcomed to Canada to see a book about themselves and the events that have brought them so far from home.

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