Margriet Ruurs (text) Nizar Ali Badr (illus.) Stepping Stones: a refugee family’s journey. University of Queensland Press, 3 April 2017, 32pp., $21.95(hbk) ISBN 9780702259739
A young girl is living safely and securely in her homeland with her family, until war comes. When it is deemed unsafe to stay, the family flees with few belongings, first walking, then by boat to another country, and then more walking. They are welcomed, finally, to their new home.
This refugee story is not a new one. We see it all too often on our televisions, hear about it on the radio and read about it in books. But this picture book is special, in many ways. Firstly, the verbal text is well worked and beautifully written. It is compassionate and warm. The English is accompanied by Arabic, making this a dual language text, sought after in public libraries.
The illustrations are amazingly authentic, for they are made from stones of different shapes and sizes, positioned to make the characters and scenes of the story. The pictures emanate expression and feeling, astounding from such inanimate objects as stones. The end papers prepare readers for this as they are filled with pebbles on what appears to be a beach.
The foreword explains the origins of the book and how it was created, a remarkable story in itself. Author and illustrator have not met. Canadian Margriet Ruurs saw Nizar Ali Badr’s work online and after some efforts to communicate with him in Syria, suggested a book together. This is the result, and the world is a lot better for it.
This book, although initially intended for children, is for a global, all ages audience. It is a must for a public library and most suitable for school libraries.
Reviewed by Liz Derouet