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Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey (English and Arabic Edition) Hardcover – October 18, 2016
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"Brilliant and beautiful and inspiring. A book that should be read with every child in the world! An instant classic as solid as the stones on which it is based!" (Eric Walters, award-winning author and member of the Order of Canada 2016-05-16)
"Ruurs writes purely and warmly, with the text set in both English and Raheem's Arabic translation...She deftly conveys the happiness of peaceful childhood, then the confusion and the fears born of war and migration, and the relief and curiosity of arriving at a new home...Each illustration is masterful, with Badr's placement of stones as careful as brush strokes, creating figures positioned to tell the whole story without the benefit of facial expressions...An astonishing book that allows the humanity of refugees to speak louder than politics and introduces readers to one of Syria's incredible artists." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review 2016-08-01)
"It's exquisite! One can only pray that its message will spread and make the difference we need." (Mem Fox, award-winning and internationally bestselling children's book author 2016-09-08)
"Stunning, original artwork both childlike and sophisticated; a text that will both break and mend your heart." (Jane Yolen, award-winning author of Devil's Arithmetic and The Stone Angel. 2016-09-12)
"Readers will be fascinated by the stone-collage illustrations created by Syrian artist Badr, who arranges expressive tableaux of people formed entirely of rocks and pebbles...A unique offering that will open eyes and soften hearts." (Booklist 2016-10-01)
"Readers of all ages will find things of value within the pages of the book...The photographed stone arrangements seem oftentimes to pulse with more life than one might think possible. Whether consciously or otherwise, given his media Badr has create figures that suggest the unbreakable spirit of people seeking freedom and opportunity...This rare treasure of a book is likely to remain highly sought-after for some considerable time...Highly recommended." (CM Magazine 2016-09-16)
"This is an amazing book!! Every teacher should own one." (Jennifer Maruno, former school principal, Peel District School Board 2016-12-12)
"The lyrical phrasing of Margriet's free verse narrative captures the eloquence and simplicity of young Rama's reactions to her experiences...Badr instills life into his stone-art with seemingly simple shifts in background, angles, and minute adjustments of one stone in relation to another." (Nerdy Book Club blog 2017-01-05)
"Ruurs' beautiful words are twinned with the most stunning artwork by Nizar Ali Badr...I could not but be moved by Badr's work, as it is unlike anything else I have ever seen and conveys so much emotion. I hope this beautiful book will reach the shelves of classrooms, libraries and homes throughout the world and be read and shared many times over." (Canadian Children's Book News 2016-10-20)
"Ordinary beach stones were used to make the three-dimensional collages in this arresting picture book...Stone by stone, step by step, it all adds up to a memorable look at what it means to leave one's home in search of 'a bright new future.'" (Horn Book Magazine 2017-02-06)
A refugee family’s flight to freedom, uniquely illustrated.
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Her most recent book has an origin story all it's own, which she describes well in the author's note at the front of the book, STEPPING STONES: A Refugee Family's Journey. Its artwork is created by Nizar Ali Badr, a stonework artist/sculptor whose creations can be seen on his Facebook page, here. He's a resident of Latakia, Syria, and his visions find expression through the stones he collects along the river's edges. The story of Ruurs' discovery of Badr, their connection, and their joint mission is best read in the author's own words.
Within a few weeks I'll post an interview with Margriet and explore their process more fully. For now, I simply want to spotlight a book that should be read by everyone. When I say "everyone", I'm not speaking figuratively. It's published in English and Arabic, but the text and art are so well-integrated in the book design that it could be understood as a wordless book, and that's no offense to the author. Ruurs has constructed a narrative path for a universally recognizable family from their simple but safe home in Syria, through life-threatening crisis, on a journey with devastating risks and horrors, to eventual resettlement in a safe and welcoming new home.
In one scene tiny pebbles might constitute a path; in another, harvested food, rooster feathers, birds' wings, or flower petals. Shifts in angles and joinings change the stone scenes from secure workday routines to desperate escapes and mournful memorials. Throughout it all, the continuity of family, flowers, sun and moon, despair, hope, and love call out to the reader of words and scenes. This is book that does not allow us to turn away, as we so often do when faced with the humans represented here through stone art and story.
Composed of the stones and scraps found around the artist's feet, characters rise to life from horizontal background surfaces where they are photographed before disappearing. It's a frighteningly painful parallel to the real lives being disrupted and lost as a result of never-ending, undeclared war.
Scene after scene expresses emotions, invites questions, and tells stories. Ruurs' text, mirrored in Arabic, unfolds the tragedy before our eyes through potent poetic phrasing and figurative fluency. Pebbles become people, people we are willing to see, and hear, and care about with more genuine empathy than society musters for the actual millions of people living (and dying) in the journeys represented here.
I plan to gift this copy to my library and another copy to my school, with more going to family and friends during the holidays. Proceeds from the book will support Badr's work and his village, where he continues to live and create. The author and publisher are also contributing portions of the profits from sales to refugee organizations.
I hope everyone who becomes aware of this book will make it a personal mission to distribute it as globally as possible. Literally. The "refugee problem" is too easily viewed as a matter of millions of lives, as "too big" to fix. Until we can allow ourselves, force ourselves, to focus on the PEOPLE, on their LIVES, instead of on numbers, nothing will improve-- for us and our sense of security, or for theirs.
This book could help us shift that focus.
It is creative and even more powerful with its connection of nature and a people's struggle to find a peaceful way of life.