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.Read more...
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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.
- ISBN-13: 9780062019721
- ISBN-10: 0062019724
- Publisher: Greenwillow Books
- Publish Date: August 2014
- Page Count: 304
- Reading Level: Ages 8-12
- Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.65 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-06-02
- Reviewer: Staff
Aref Al-Amri doesn’t want to accompany his professor parents on their three-year stint to Ann Arbor, Mich., so he spends his last days in Oman thinking of reasons not to go. Nye (There Is No Difference Now) writes in lyrical prose from a close third-person perspective, poignantly capturing Aref’s impressions of and reflections on the people, places, and experiences he will leave behind, such as the ocean view from his house’s roof, his cat Mish-Mish, and conversations with his beloved grandfather, Sidi: “Words blended together like paint on paper when you brushed a streak of watercolor orange onto a page, blew on it and thin rivers of color spread out, touching other colors to make a new one.” Aref’s handwritten lists of newly learned facts (“Wood turtles are enormous”) or questions he wonders about (“Why can’t Sidi come with us?”) appear throughout, emphasizing his intellect and emotions: “Were eyes little factories that made as many tears as you needed?” While conveying Aref’s ambivalence about leaving home, this tender story also reveals the inner resources that will help him navigate his new environment. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)
Holding on to home
Eight-year-old Aref loves nature, making lists, his family, his grandfather Sidi and his home in Muscat, Oman. When his parents decide to finish their doctorates in Michigan, Aref refuses to embrace the move. The important things—school, friends, his grandfather, the sea turtle beach—do not fit in Aref’s suitcase, and he finds himself getting in his mother’s way while sinking into sadness. Underneath his sadness is fear: Will Sidi be here in three years when Aref returns? Will Aref remember Muscat?
Gently and tenderly, Sidi pulls his grandson away from the packing and takes him out into the world they love. They visit beloved, familiar places and have adventures in new ones. They spend a night in the desert where they see the night sky free from light pollution. They meet a falconer, and Aref watches as the falcon flies away and then returns. They sleep on Sidi’s rooftop and take a boat ride into the harbor to do some fishing. They save important stones and memories along the way.
In a world of speed and instant information, it is a blessing to slow down with Aref and his grandfather and to think about what we love and what we would miss if we had to leave it. Nye’s poetic prose is so filled with tenderness that I found myself slowing down and rereading long passages just to enjoy the feel of the words on my tongue. It’s been a long time since I have read a book that has brought me that special kind of pleasure, and I look forward to sharing this with children and adults.