Stepping Stones, A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs

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Stepping Stones, A Refugee Family’s Journey is a story from a Syrian girl’s perspective about having to flee her country.

Rama loved playing with her dolls and her brother Sami, going to school, drinking tea with her neighbours and buying produce at the market. Life was peaceful and fun in her Syrian village. But her grandfather, Jedo, complained that they were not free to sing their favourite songs, or dance, or to pray the prayers of their choice. Then a few neighbours started to leave. When bombs began to fall near her village, the birds didn’t sing, and there was not enough to eat. More people left, fellow villagers in search of a place where they could be safe from bombs and enjoy life. The day came when Jedo told her family they had to pack up and join the rest leaving their village, their pets, and their life in Syria. They walked for a long time, carrying blankets, food and clothing.

They finally came to the sea and boarded a boat with many others. The ocean tossed and punished their boat and some people didn’t make it. Prayers were said for those they had to leave at sea. When they landed, again they walked, but this time they walked without the fear of war. New friends helped them and gave them food and clothes, and a doll for Rama. She and her family were called the lucky ones, the ones with hopes and dreams of peace.

Pros:

  • Margaret Ruurs has stayed away from politics, and has simply told a story from a child’s perspective. The child neither understands why the conflicts happen or when it will stop.
  • The Syrian illustrator, Nizar Ali Badr, has achieved so much with so little. He gathers stones from the seashore where he lives and creates amazingly powerful and expressive illustrations that are truly inspiring.
  • Children will love the details of the story, and feel for Rama who merely wants the security of having family and friends around and to live in peace.
  • Terrible things happen, but they are written in such a way so as not to scare small children.

Cons:

  • Frankly, I couldn’t think of a single thing to put here! I felt it was a powerful and moving story, and one that should be told.

My Personal Opinion: 

As an artist, I was pulled into the story because of the sincere understated style and the expressive and sensitively portrayed figures. The fact that the illustrator is also a Syrian who used local materials in such an ingenious way was a bonus. I always appreciate artists who think and work outside of the box, and the illustrations in this book showed amazing imagination. I also loved the story from a child’s perspective. Being a parent, her plight hit home. Their predicament will also help children see how lucky they are to live where they live.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Before the war, how did Rama’s lifestyle compare to yours?
  • Rama had to leave her home and bring very little with her. Have you ever been sad to leave a home? If so, what could you not leave behind?
  • The illustrator did not draw or paint the pictures. How do they differ from most of the illustrations you have seen?
  • Have you ever created pictures using something out of the ordinary? If so, what did you use?
  • When Rama and her family landed in a new country, they had to learn a new language. Have you met or played with someone who either didn’t know English at all, or knew only a little? If so, were they shy and scared?
  • If you know of someone who doesn’t know English, what are some ways to help them learn and to feel welcome?

 

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Loraine Kemp
Loraine Kemp is a MG fantasy author and illustrator who is crazy about animals both real and unreal. When she is not writing or illustrating, she is golfing, skiing, eating dark chocolate, or daydreaming about fantasy worlds. Visit her at www.lorainekemp.com or www.facebook.com/lorainekempartist.

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