Stepping Stones is a new childrens’ book, which tells the story of Syrian refugees. Beautifully illustrated and with a simple engaging text, it is captivating the interest of Canadians. Locally it is being used as a fundraiser to bring an Iraqi Kurdish family with two small children who fled Mosul, Iraq to the Comox Valley. Each book sold will contribute $10 to support this family’s sponsorship. Books can be purchased online at this link or at Second Page Bookstore, 546 Duncan Avenue, Courtenay.

Canadians from coast to coast to coast have been moved to action by the stories of families fleeing death and destruction in Syria. Thousands have come together to raise money to assist these families to find refuge and a new life in Canada. They have invented numerous ways to raise the funds required.

Few have been as imaginative in their fund-raising as Canadian children’s book author Margriet Ruurs. Browsing Facebook one day she saw a beautiful and heart-rending image of Syrian mothers and children fleeing the wages of war.

The image displayed such strong emotion,” Ruurs says. “It touched me deeply. But the amazing thing was the medium. The image was not painted; it was not drawn. It was composed entirely of stones. Wait a minute, I thought. How can stones display such emotion?”

She set out on the daunting task of finding the artist, Nizar Ali Badr, somewhere in that war-torn country. Through friends in Pakistan, she was able to track him down in the town of Latakia. Using email and a translator in the town, she won Badr’s cooperation and together they created this unique picture book in English and Arabic called Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey.

It tells the story of Rama and her family, who are forced to flee their once-peaceful village to escape the ravages of the civil war raging ever closer to their home. With only what they can carry on their backs, the family set out to walk to freedom in Europe. Nizar Ali Badr’s stunning stone images illustrate the story. 

She wanted the book to familiarize Canadians with this drama unfolding halfway across the world. But she also wanted it to be able to be used to help raise the funds to bring families to safety. To do that she needed to find a publisher who shared her passion for justice and great stories and who would be prepared to donate funds for that cause from the sale of each book. She found one in Bob Tyrrell, the founder and president of Orca Book Publishers in Victoria. Tyrell and his wife were already involved with a group sponsoring a Syrian refugee family, so he felt the decision was easy for him. “Yes,” he said immediately, “we’ll do it.”

Eric Walters, award-winning author and member of the Order of Canada calls Stepping Stones: “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.”