The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye


The Turtle of Oman - Naomi Shihab NyeWay, way back in April, I posted about some books that had been one of the 2015 awardees of the Arab American book awards. Check out the post here. I’ve since added a bunch of them to my TBR and this was one. Here’s an excerpt from the back cover:

Aref does not want to leave Oman. He does not want to leave his elementary school, his friends, or his beloved grandfather, Sidi. 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 Sidi for help. But rather than pack, Aref and Sidi go on a series of adventures. They visit the camp of a thousand stars deep in the desert, they sleep on Sidi’s roof, they fish in the Gulf of Oman and dream about going to India, they travel to the nature reserve to watch the sea turtles. At each stop, Sidi finds a small stone that he later slips into Aref’s suitcase—mementos of home.

The book is written for children and the story is really cute. What I found most appealing was the universal nature of hating change, particularly changes as big as moving to another country so far away for any reason. Aref has normal and understandable concerns about moving from his home country. His parents have normal and understandable reasons to want to make the move happen.

I’ve seen stories about Americans moving to other countries and it was fun to experience a story where America was the strange and dreaded destination. It’s not even America that’s the problem. It’s the leaving in general.

I also really love Sidi and his way of dealing with this issue. I love the way he seems to revel in his country and in spending time with his grandson. I love the way he talks about the turtles laying eggs in the sand and the way Aref’s favorite animal brings into focus what is expected of him in this moving adventure.

I listened to the audiobook, read by Peter Ganim, and was only 4 hours long. It seems like a perfect length for a book rated for this age group. This would be a great book for middle grade readers, especially for schools to add as recommended reading at that age. It reminds us that moving and hating to move and everything that worries us about it are completely normal and fairly similar. We aren’t so different after all and someone is looking at our hometown the same way that we are looking at theirs.

I got my copy from Scribd, but it’s also available for purchase from Amazon and the Book Depository.

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