The Turtle of Oman

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
The Turtle of Oman Book Poster Image
Poetic story about boy who doesn't want to move to America.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn something about Oman and its people, and pick up various facts Asef lists between the pages about turtles, foxes, and more). readers may also learn some new vocabulary words shared by the members of Asef's family. 

Positive Messages

Asef resists moving to America but eventually learns that like the turtles he loves so much, he carries his home with him -- and will return to where he's from.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Readers will find it easy to relate to Asef, who's moody and says things we all feel sometimes, like that he hates sharing. With his friends, he tries to be generous with the things he loves, and eventually is helpful to his mother. Readers will love Asef's amazing grandfather, who's endlessly ready for conversation and adventure, and also helps Asef think about his trip in a new way.

Violence

Asef catches a fish, but after looking at it struggling in the boat, releases it.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

On a camping trip, Asef sees men smoking tobacco out of a "hubble-bubble" (a waterpipe).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Turtle of Oman is a coming-of-age story about a boy from the Arab country of Oman who doesn’t want to move to America. He eventually learns that, like the turtles he loves so much, he carries his home with him -- and will return to where he's from. Readers will learn something about Oman and its people and pick up on the the various facts Asef lists between the pages about turtles, foxes, and more. In one scene, Asef sees men smoking tobacco out of a "hubble-bubble" (a water pipe), and in another, he catches a fish, but releases it because he wants it to live. This book is a good choice for kids who may be resisting a family move, or really anyone who loves poetic stories full of significant details.

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What's the story?

Having always lived in Oman, Asef doesn't want to move to the United States with his parents for three years while they attend graduate school in Michigan. He's not getting very far in his packing, and is generally gloomy thinking about all the things he loves about Oman, and  how his cousins will be moving into his house and messing with his stuff. His beloved grandfather takes him on a series of adventures -- a trip to the beach, a camping trip to the desert, an overnight on his grandfather's roof -- giving Asef sweet memories and also the insight he needs to have a new attitude about his new adventure.

Is it any good?

THE TURTLE OF OMAN has a lyrical style and languid pace that will stick with readers. The story is both educational in its portrait of the Arabian country and its people (and all the facts Asef lists between the pages about turtles, foxes and more), and moving, as readers see the love Asef has for his home, and especially his grandfather, Sidi. Asef's playful, loving grandfather is well-drawn, and readers can't help but be envious of their endless stream-of-consciousness conversations ("Talking with Sidi felt like a sky of floating words. You could say anything. 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 the other colors to make a new one.")

This is a good choice for kids who may be resisting a family move, or really anyone who loves poetic stories full of significant details.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Asef's struggle. Why doesn't he want to move to America? How do his feelings change by the end? 

  • What do you think of the book's title? What does Asef have in common with the turtles he loves so much?

  • Each member of Asef's family shares something he or she learned each day, even if it's only a new vocabulary word. Why do they do this? What does it tell you about them? Inspired families might want to try this exercise on their own.

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