I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye
Published by Harper Collins on August 26th 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Social Issues, Emigration & Immigration, New Experience, Family, Multigenerational
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This accessible, exquisite novel shines with gentle humor and explores themes of moving, family, nature, and immigration. It tells the story of Aref Al-Amri, who must say good-bye to everything and everyone he loves in his hometown of Muscat, Oman, as his family prepares to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is acclaimed poet and National Book Award Finalist Naomi Shihab Nye's first novel set in the Middle East since her acclaimed Habibi.
Aref Al-Amri does not want to leave Oman. He does not want to leave his elementary school, his friends, or his beloved grandfather, Siddi. He does not want to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his parents will go to graduate school. His mother is desperate for him to pack his suitcase, but he refuses. Finally, she calls Siddi for help. But rather than pack, Aref and Siddi go on a series of adventures. They visit the camp of a thousand stars deep in the desert, they sleep on Siddi's roof, they fish in the Gulf of Oman and dream about going to India, and they travel to the nature reserve to watch the sea turtles. At each stop, Siddi finds a small stone that he later slips into Aref's suitcase—mementos of home.
Naomi Shihab Nye's warmth, attention to detail, and belief in the power of empathy and connection shines from every page. Features black-and-white spot art and decorations by Betsy Peterschmidt.
The Turtle Of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye is an adorable book that will certainly get good mileage among its intended audience – elementary school children. I read this book rather quickly in the span of a day or two. I am not particularly attached to this book but I do feel it was okay and it had value. Looking at it from the stand point of someone who believes strongly in literacy and reading for all children, I think The Turtle Of Oman will be of value to any elementary school library or classroom, given that it is a story that is potentially relatable for many children.
Naomi Shihab Nye’s The Turtle Of Oman is about a boy named Aref. Aref is about to move with his parents from Oman to America for three years while his professor parents obtain doctorate degrees. Aref loves Oman, his friends and most importantly his Siddi, his grandfather. And so, the plot of this book revolves around Aref resisting moving and change, but also having one last adventure with his grandfather before saying goodbye to Oman for three years. I loved that the plot dealt with that universal theme of change, because as you all know change is something we all experience whether we want or not — and sometimes all we can really do is make the best of it and adjust accordingly.
I think if you are a proponent of the We Need Diverse Books movement, chances are you will agree this book should be placed in all classrooms. I think it is important for children to have access to this book, especially in the United States where there’s still rampant ignorance about Middle Eastern people. I think that kids will see themselves reflected in Aref. Many kids have strong ties to their grandparents (where I live it is often the grandparents who are raising the grandkids but that is a different issue for a different day) and so they may relate to Aref’s relationship with Siddi. There’s also the moving aspect — so many kids have to move because their parents get new jobs, etc, and so that can be difficult. Books with characters in Aref’s situation can help, I think. Because again, we see him make his peace with his move.
As an adult reading this book, I can say that I probably wouldn’t recommend it to other adults unless you are a professional who works with kids or a parent. I mean, it is a cute read do not get me wrong, it just did not do a whole heck of a lot for me, personally. The setting, however, is very well done by Nye. I actually googled if Oman is safe to visit as a tourist after reading because again, I know pretty much nothing about the Middle East, and have decided I would like to see Oman. So, kudos for Nye for inspiring the travel bug in me. In all, definitely get your hands on The Turtle Of Oman for the elementary school aged child in your life.