The Turtle Of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye was released this last summer. There are lots of reviews of this book. People seem to either love it or not. The pacing is slow and this might be what catches people (especially here in the USA – we are always on the run). I am also an on the move type of gal so I almost put this away – I couldn’t settle with the words even through I could feel the richness of details within the first few short chapters.
I walked away from it but returned a few days later to sit in front of a fire on a chilly night. I just allowed the words and the location to pull me in slowly and carefully – detail by detail.
Aref Al-Amri is a young boy not wanting to leave his home, his cat, his friends, the beach, and especially his grandfather, Sidi. His family is leaving for America so his parents can study for three years. Aref would rather stay with what he knows then begin again in a new place with things like snow.
Sidi comes to help Aref pack but really his job is to help him say good-bye and to understand that his home, friends and family will be here when he returns. They travel around the city and country side exploring, collecting small treasure to hold on to, both physical things and images to hold in his memory. You learn about Aref’s life and a small look into his culture but really you feel the universality of children and families when moving. We find we are move the same than we think.
Nye includes great details that place you in the desert camp of The Night of a Thousand Stars, on the beach where the turtles hatch each spring and out in the boat rolling with the waves. She shows us the love a learning, the little ways we care for each other and the deep love between a grandfather and grandson.
Yes, it is a sleeper – slow, and quiet. I still struggle with Aref who at times seems very young and whinny and then turns around to be quite articulate and wise. But over all when the book ended I did not want to say good by to Sidi and Aref. I am ready to travel with them on another small adventure in a place so unfamiliar to me but now feels like home due to the wonderful writing of Naomi Shihab Nye.
I am curious what young students are thinking of this one – it is a great curl up with your parent, grandparent and read out loud but not sure it will appreciated if read alone.