Muscat, Oman is an unusual setting for an MG book. A bustling city of 3.6 million, its situated on the shores of the Arabian Sea. The country of Oman borders United Arab Emirates (Dubai), Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. THE TURTLE OF OMAN is a quiet story with a hopeful message about a boy who is relocating to Michigan for three years with his parents. He is hurt by the thought of leaving behind his cat and beloved grandfather and fearful he will not like his new community or school.
A sequel would be welcome as this story covers only the time leading up to young Aref’s flight to the U.S. Like another recent book about moving, MY LIFE IN DIORAMAS, this one explores what a child does to makes sense of a potential move. With short chapters and text that is spaced for easy reading, the page count is not to be feared. It’s a quick read.
PUBLICATION DATE:2014 Pages: 299
FULL PLOT (From Amazon): 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.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT THE TURTLE OF OMAN by Naomi Shihab Nye
- The relationship Aref has with his grandfather is touching. It is Sidi who helps Aref say good-bye to his native land. Boat trips, camping, and enjoying their final days together provides the perfect sendoff.
- Aref writes in his notebook so he won’t forget. He writes about the wildlife he adores and any other topic that moves him. His writing pieces are done in a font to reflect his own penmanship.
- It doesn’t matter what country you live in – you will recognize the themes of fear, family, and the anxiety of starting over. Aref has feelings similar to young people in our own culture and is a boy who’d be a joy to have in any neighbohood.
- It takes the entire book for Aref to pack his suitcase. What he finally takes with him is the basis for this touching story.
- Perhaps best as a read-aloud, this tale would be great in a discussion about our perceptions of different cultures.
FAVORITE LINES: Sometimes, even though he was old, Aref walked backwards swinging his arms, making a back-up beep, like a bulldozer or truck would make. You saw differently when you walked backwards… Would he feel backwards in Michigan or just the same as he felt in Oman?
AUTHOR QUOTE: “It is really hard to be lonely very long in a world of words. Even if you don’t have friends somewhere, you still have language, and it will find you and wrap its little syllables around you and suddenly there will be a story to live in.” Source
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.