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"The whole world opened to me when I learned to read." More
Summary: The big green suitcase sits on Aref’s bedroom floor, waiting to be packed. His mother is constantly asking him about filling it. How can he? None of the important things will fit in there anyway. Besides, he doesn’t want his cousins using his bedroom OR taking care of Mish-Mish, his cat, for the next three years. What if they ruin his room? What if Mish-Mish doesn’t remember him? Time is running out — his father left for Michigan today and he and his mother will meet him there and start their new, temporary life. Aref doesn’t want temporary — he wants home. Cultural traditions and family relationships are central to this coming-of-age story for preteens.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 10 and up; read yourself: 13 and up
Interest Level: 10 and up
Reading Level: 4.6
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: I loved every page of this book and am jealous of Aref's relationship with his grandfather. It is easy to understand Aref's procrastination, but so much of the story's focus is on their adventures, which was a wonderful opening to Omani culture. I would definitely consider this as a gift for a grandfather and grandson, either to share or read their own copies together.
Pros: Children of all ages who struggle with change will cling to this beautifully-told story.
Cons: Absolutely none.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. For kids with lots of change in their life, or kids with close relationships to a grandparent, this could be a treasured story.
Educational Themes: The story is wonderfully descriptive and introduces Omani culture and will give children (particularly those who live in the US) a sense of how other countries view the world (e.g., it is a measure of honor to study abroad and come home). There are also ways in which it offers universal truths about family relationships and feelings (fear of change, making new friends, et al).
Notes: The publisher donated an advance review copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - multicultural, cultures and tradition, family, middle grade, grandparents, coming of age
Date(s) Reviewed: September 2014
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews at barnesandnoble.com; and reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com.