Reviewed by Racha Kassir
The Turtle of Oman recounts how a third grader Omani boy named Aref refuses to move with his parents from Oman to the U.S. Ann Arbor, Michigan for three years while they obtain their doctorate degrees. Aref gives his mom a hard time while packing. No matter how large the suitcase, what Aref loves will not fit: his grandfather-Sidi-, his cat Mish-Mish, his bedroom, his friends, his country, and his home. How can he take all of those with him? Aref struggles to accept the temporary move to the U.S and wishes he were like sea turtles: having a home with him wherever he goes.
Aref’s mom solicits the help of Sidi, – the Omani name of grandfather. Sidi helps Aref create memories to take to his new home in Michigan. They visit the best places in Muscat and spend a night in the desert where they watch the night sky. They meet a falconer and Aref observes the falcon fly away and then return; an important message that reassures the boy about his future. They sleep on Sidi’s rooftop and take a boat ride to do fishing. They collect stones and find memories along the way.
Winner of 2015 Middle East Book Award and named a Notable Book by the American Library Association, this novel helps children accept the change of moving to a foreign country. It reassures the reader that the attachment to their first home is valid, and it offers insight into Oman’s culture and the country’s natural beauty. I enjoyed reading this book and learning about the relationship between a grandson and his grandfather. It is fun to explore things about Oman and discover a handful of Arabic word written in the English script.
The Turtle of Oman
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Illustrated by Betsy Peterschmidt
Greenwillow Books, 2014
Racha is a graduate student at the family education M.Ed. program, who likes baking and playing with her kids.