CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 2 . . . . September 16, 2016
Orca's unique new picture book has its origins in Canadian author Margriet Ruurs' social media habits. One day Ruurs was on Facebook when her attention was captured by posted photographs of images created using clever arrangements of pebbles and stones. Ruurs endeavoured to contact the talented artist who had created the artwork and, after considerable time and effort, her persistence was rewarded. Using the stone work creations of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr as a starting point, Ruurs set about constructing a suitable written text to accompany the art. The result is a powerful, intriguing, informative, evocative, entertaining book–Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey.
Canada is justifiably proud of its multicultural make-up and welcoming attitudes. Stepping Stones has the potential to be a useful tool for strengthening the already firm multicultural foundation upon which Canada is built. Readers of all ages will find things of value within the pages of the book. The dual language written text for Stepping Stones is presented in English and Arabic. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to refugee resettlement organisations across North America.
Badr's clever arrangements represent a unique approach to art and particularly picture book illustration. It will be interesting to see if imitators seek to emulate the style in future book publishing ventures. 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 created human figures that suggest the unbreakable spirit of people seeking freedom and opportunity.
As his people were attacked in November 1864, in an incident remembered as the Sand Creek Massacre, the Cheyenne chief White Antelope is said to have encouraged his warriors to bravery by calling out "Only the stones stay on earth forever." Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey will not likely stay on earth forever – but this rare treasure of a book is likely to remain highly sought-after for some considerable time.
Dr. Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba where he teaches children's literature classes.
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