By Awnali Mills
Stepping Stones is about Rama, a girl whose family is forced to flee their country because war has broken out too close to their home for safety. Rama is afraid, and the journey is long and dangerous. Finally, the family reaches safety and kind people take them in and make them feel at home, even though Rama can’t understand their language.
If you routinely read my book reviews, then you’ll know that I don’t write a lot of reviews of picture books. Usually, when I find a good picture book I am more concerned with getting it into a list so that I can remember it when the pertinent storytime rolls around than writing a review of it.
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Story, however, is not something I would use in a storytime. I do think it would make an excellent book to use in the classroom as part of a discussion about refugees, or in an art class because of the unique illustrations.
The book is written in both English and Arabic, and a portion of all the proceeds is being donated to refugee resettlement organizations in North America. While the story is good, the story behind the book is fascinating. The author, Margiet Ruurs, saw the illustrator Nizar Ali Badr’s art online and went to great lengths to try to contact him. Despite not speaking each other’s language, they managed to come to an agreement. She would write the story, and he would do the art, using both new pieces and some of the old pieces that had first caught Ruur’s eye. Badr’s art is all done with stones. Somehow, the stones convey tremendous humanity and hardship. I found the picture of the boat ride to be particularly moving, and the pictures of the family’s joy in their new home are quite touching.
Again, this is a terrific book for sparking discussions of refugees and how thoughtful we need to be about our response to their needs.