Author: Margaret Ruurs. Translator: Falah Raheem
Illustrator: Nizar Ali Badr
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Audience: 5 years and up
Summary: Rama heard the rooster crow and awakend to a world of abundant breakfast, happy play, and time for shared stories with her little brother Sami, her father, mother, and her grandfather, Jedo. Mama sewed silk scarves and Rama was wrapped in silk and hugs. But that would soon change. War came and people began to leave, When the bombs came too close, Rama and her family left also. They said good-by to their goat, their flowers, and the soil that they called home. They joined a river of people and walked and walked, then crossed the water and walked some more. Papa and Mama planted seeds to remember those who did not make it across the sea. Rama and her family were welcomed by people who shared what they had, even a new doll; new hopes, new dreams of peace seemed possible.
Literary elements at work in the story: Ruurs writes a Foreword that explains how she wrote this book, beginning with the discovery of Nizar Ali Badr’s art work. This is a story to savor as well as the main body of the book. Despite distance (Canada, Syria) and language (English, Arabic), this partnership has produced a work of art with simple free verse and images made of stones.. It is astonishing how effectively stones portray the plight and feelings of the refugees who are fleeing Syria. The picture of the refugees who are safe while some float in the water is unbearably poignant. A portion of the profits from this book go to help Syrian refugees. A list of organizations that contribute to refugees is included at the close of the book. The story is told in both English and Arabic.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? None of these are important in the story although it is easy to conclude that the least affluent members of society are most affected by war.
Theological Conversation Partners: According to the UN there are over 63 million refugees in the world today. They leave their homes for food, for safety, to avoid persecution and frequently spend years in refugee camps while they await some place to go. Jesus and his parents were once refugees as they fled Herod’s execution orders. (Matt. 2:13-15) Remembering that he said ministering to “the least of these” was ministering to him can give us some guidance about treatment of refugees and where to look for Jesus Christ today. The Old Testament is filled with admonitions about providing for the alien and stranger;( Lev. 19: 9, 10, 33) the New Testament reminds us to love our neighbor, to offer hospitality to the stranger. (Romans 12:13) . Those of most concern to God are the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, in other words, the weakest people in society. When children learn of people suffering and wonder at the goodness of God the most helpful thing we can do is show them that they can work with God to minister to these people. Hence, the list of addresses at the close of the book. This may be the occasion of reminding readers that Jesus promises peace that is deeper and different than the absence of war. (John 14:27) It is a gift rather than an achievement.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Where are the homes of the author and the artist? How did they get together?
- Examine the Arabic text? Do you recognize any letters or words? Different languages make communication and understanding difficult.
- This quotation is printed above a picture of children (perhaps some adults) holding hearts up: “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.: Do you think this is true? How can we reach understanding with different languages?
- Are stones a good way to depict the story of Rama and her family? Why or why not.?
- How does Rama describe continuous walking?
- How does her father encourage her when he can’t pick her up?
- Imagine leaving home with only what you can carry. What would you take? What would you have to leave?
- Rama’s family is welcomed to a new home. Has your church or community welcomed a refugee family?
- Jesus was once a refugee. Can we say this is true today?
Virginia Thomas is the co-author of Children’s Literature for all God’s Children, a graduate of Union Presbyterian Seminary (when it was the Assembly’s Training School) and a regular contributor on Storypath.
Stepping Stones by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.