"A family prepares to move from Oman to the United States, and son Aref struggles with the impending transition. Nye avoids fantastical plot elements to allow a welcomed balance of a close, third-person narrative and first-person lists to reveal Aref’s worries. Playful similes and verbs abound, often appearing in scenes with Aref’s grandfather, Sidi, and they allow for characterization and sentences that lift the book beyond a voice-over of what Aref thinks. The balance of narrative choices also allows the reader to mimic the relief Aref catches when he smells sunshine in his pillow case: the reader greets the many facts and figures about culture and the animal kingdom because the thoughts arise at the appropriate times either from Aref, who is genuinely interested in the world, or from the narrator, who shows us Aref acting out his passions."— Todd Wellman
Praised by the Horn Book as “both quiet and exhilarating,” this novel by the acclaimed poet and National Book Award Finalist Naomi Shihab Nye follows Aref Al-Amri as he says goodbye to everything and everyone he loves in his hometown of Muscat, Oman, as his family prepares to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan. This book was awarded a 2015 Middle East Book Award, was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association, and includes extra material by the author.
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.
This accessible, exquisite novel shines with gentle humor and explores themes of moving, family, nature, and immigration. Naomi Shihab Nye has created what Kirkus called “a warm and humorous peek at the profound and mundane details of moving from one country to another—a perfect pick for kids on the move.” Features black-and-white spot art and decorations by Betsy Peterschmidt.
About the Author
Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and anthologist and the acclaimed author of Habibi: A Novel and Sitti's Secrets, a picture book, which was based on her own experiences visiting her beloved Sitti in Palestine. Her book 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has taught writing and worked in schools all over the world, including in Muscat, Oman. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.
“Nye’s story about the special bond between a boy and his grandfather and their mutual love for their country is somehow both quiet and exhilarating.” — Horn Book (starred review)
“A warm and humorous peek at the profound and mundane details of moving from one country to another—a perfect pick for kids on the move.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Magical . . .Will deeply touch young readers who have also moved between countries—and it will enlighten their new friends.” — Booklist
“Nye’s elegant but accessible tale—a love letter to Oman, a touching portrayal of a boy and his grandfather, and a poignant look at how we experience change—is deeply moving.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books