Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs, artwork by Nizar Ali Badr (InfoSoup)
Told in both English and Arabic, this picture shares the story of a family of Syrian refugees. The book begins with Rama talking about their life in Syria and how things have changed and freedoms have been lost. War arrived with a lack of food and people began to leave. Still, Rama and her family stayed until bombs fell too close to their home and they joined “the river of people.” They walked and walked until they reached the sea where they boarded a small boat. People died aboard but Rama’s family survived. They walked farther, no longer in a world torn by war until they came to their new home and were greeted by smiling new neighbors.
This picture book is simple enough to share with children. It speaks to the horrors of war but with a delicate touch. Still, it is a book that will spark questions and discussion for children who will want to understand if they will ever need to be refugees themselves and how they can help. It is a picture book that speaks to our universal humanity, the power of war and the courage of hope.
The illustrations are spectacular. Ruurs opens the book with an explanation of discovering his art on Facebook and reaching out to him to see if he would do a book with her on Syrian refugees. His art is moving and emotional, the faceless rocks somehow capturing fear, strain, despair and eventually joy. Done with subtle natural colors, the art is powerful and wrenching.
A noteworthy and extraordinary picture book on the refugee crisis, this picture book belongs in all libraries. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk (InfoSoup)
Arun lives in a village with his grandfather. The purpose of life in the ashram was to work in service for one another. For Arun, that meant following his grandfather’s rules as well and the hardest for Arun was not to waste. One day, Arun grew tired of his vow not to waste and threw an almost worn out pencil away into the grass. When he asked for a new pencil that night, his grandfather said that he had had a fine pencil just that morning. He went on to explain that the thing of importance was not the pencil but Arun himself. So Arun set off after dark to find the pencil nub in the grass. Still, it would take more teachings from his grandfather for Arun to finally connect wasting nothing with nonviolence as Arun works to define what passive violence actually is.
In a lesson ideal for our time of large consumption and rude political discourse, this picture book is a gentle salve. It speaks of small moments of choice actually shaping our persona and our ideas. One small pencil nub is actually a decision to live without excess and without damaging others. The message is delivered through the curious eyes of a young boy who asks the questions that readers will also have. This is a lovely and accessible look at the teachings of Gandhi.
Turk’s illustrations are lush and patterned. He uses collage at times, fabric folds popping off the page. Gorgeous colors fill nature with purple trees, silver rimmed clouds, the glow of orange understanding after a darkness of shadow.
This second picture book about Grandfather Gandhi is a treat and offers opportunity for discussions about waste and care for others. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.