A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers learn a bit about Oman, its people, and its customs. Arabic words are scattered throughout. Information is shared about other characters' cultures, languages, and customs, as well. Readers learn facts about Michigan and some of Aref's favorite topics, including turtles, bats, and trees.
Moving to a new country is an adventure and a learning experience. Good neighbors and friendly classmates welcome newcomers. Experiencing diverse cultures, languages, and traditions is good for everyone. Trying new things can be difficult but also very rewarding.
Positive Role Models
Aref is brave, confident, and curious as he adjusts to living in Michigan. His neighbors, teachers, and classmates are welcoming and supportive. Neighbors share food and help Aref's family in other ways. A neighbor who's blind lives a full and adventurous life. Aref's teacher is purposefully inclusive of her students' ethnicities and cultures. Aref's elderly grandfather, Sidi, overcomes his fear to do something he didn't think he could do.
Aref is from Oman, and he attends a culturally diverse elementary school. Many of his classmates and friends are immigrants or visitors to the U.S. They speak a variety of languages, including Arabic, Farsi, Greek, and Spanish. At school, students share food from their home countries and learn about the holidays from all of their cultures.
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Violence & Scariness
A classmate is from Afghanistan, and it's mentioned that she "lived through a lot of fighting in her country." Neighbors from Syria and Lebanon say they aren't sure if they'll return to their countries because of "all of the sad conflicts and problems always happening there."
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Products & Purchases
A few specific restaurants and foods are briefly mentioned, including Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger, Kilwins, Froot Loops cereal, and Blue Moon ice cream.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Turtle of Michigan, by award-winning poet and author Naomi Shihab Nye, is an uplifting, affirming story about 8-year-old Aref's move from the Arabian country of Oman to Ann Arbor, Michigan. It's a stand-alone companion to The Turtle of Oman. The story highlights Aref's curiosity, resilience, and positive outlook as he and his parents adjust to life in a new country. It's a gentle, slower-paced story full of kind and welcoming characters. Aref's family is part of a diverse community, including many immigrants. There are two brief mentions of characters leaving their home countries or not being able to return due to fighting and conflicts. Aref and his family are saddened when the leader of Oman, Sultan Qaboos, dies (at 80 years old) during the course of the story.
Is It Any Good?
This affirming, uplifting story offers a glimpse of what it's like to adjust to life in a new country. It's fun to experience new things through Aref's eyes, like flying on an airplane or seeing snow for the first time. The kindness and care of family, neighbors, and community in the story is heartwarming. There's also some gentle humor in Aref's everyday explorations of his new surroundings. Aref's close bond with his grandfather is evident through their correspondence and memories of times together.
The Turtle of Michigan will appeal most to readers who appreciate author Naomi Shihab Nye's poetic prose and a slower-paced story. Readers who've moved to new place or new school may find it relatable. Aref and his parents arrive at a community that's completely welcoming. Aref's school is very diverse and inclusive. His biggest worry is how to correct classmates who mispronounce his name. While this positive take is assuring and inspiring, it may ring less true for readers who have faced more difficult challenges when moving to a new home or country.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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