Kitchener-Waterloo·Audio

Guelph children from Syrian refugee family co-author picture book

A refugee family arrived to Canada with seven suitcases. It became the inspiration for a children's book illustrated and co-written by three children from the Marie family. With the help of Cynthia Spring, Ahmed, Farah and Hala who live in Guelph have authored a book that the proceeds from the sale will go to help other families like them.  

Proceeds from the sale of the book will help other refugee families.

Cynthia Spring documented what they said and Ahmed, Farah and Hala created the illustrations for the children's book '7 Suitcases'. The children were Syrian refugees from Turkey who settled in Guelph in 2016. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Mennonite Central Committee to help other refugee families. (Joe Pavia CBC News)

A refugee family landed in Canada in 2016 with seven suitcases.

It became the inspiration for a children's book illustrated and co-written by three children from the Marie family.

'7 Suitcases' is a picture book written from the perspective of a 9-year-old Syrian girl who is new to Canada.

With the help of retired teacher/librarian Cynthia Spring,  Ahmed, Farah and Hala who live in Guelph plan to return the profits from the sale of the book to help other refugee families.

Spring, along with members of her book club who sponsored the family, greeted them when they arrived at the airport. She said she got to know the family and took notes documenting the learning experiences the children encountered.

"I suppose I was just so taken myself by the things we take for granted here in Canada and the things that just enraptured the kids. You know even like rocks and streams and going out for Halloween and playing safely on the streets," said Spring.

"I'm just so taken by the bond that they have together and have the courage they've shown through so many new experiences."

Co-author Cynthia Spring says she was taken by the things Canadians take for granted that enraptured the Ahmed Hala and Farah, including Halloween. (Joe Pavia CBC News)

Illustrated experiences

The children speak English fluently after being in Canada for three years. But both Hala and Farah said they were nervous about attending school not knowing the language. Farah projected that fear on paper.

"In Turkey we used to go to an Arabic school and we didn't know any English," said Farah. "When we came to Canada so we had to go to an English school. And we said no no no no because we were too nervous and scared to go."

Other illustrations include one from their brother Ahmed who drew himself sliding down the back of a dentist's chair. As well there's one from sister Hala and the children's first time trick-or-treating at Halloween.

The book sells for $10.00 and all the proceeds will be donated to the Mennonite Central Committee to help other refugee families.

The book is being sold at the Bookshelf Cafe in Guelph, Magic Pebble in Elora and Wordsworth Books in Waterloo.

Seven Suitcases is the name of a new children's book written from the perspective of a 9-year-old Syrian girl new to Canada. It's based on the true story of three siblings in Guelph. Ahmed, Farah and Hala Marie came to Canada with their parents three years ago. The three siblings are also co-authors and illustrators the book. They collaborated with Cynthia Spring for the project. Farrah, Hala and Cynthia joined The Morning Edition with Craig Norris. 7:19