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The Turtle of Oman: A Novel

Last updated Monday, February 22, 2016

Author: Naomi Shihab Nye
Date of Publication: 2014
ISBN: 0062019724
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Apr. 2015

Synopsis: This accessible, exquisite novel shines with gentle humor and explores themes of moving, family, nature, and immigration. It tells the story of Aref Al-Amri, who must say good-bye to everything and everyone he loves in his hometown of Muscat, Oman, as his family prepares to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is acclaimed poet and National Book Award Finalist Naomi Shihab Nye's first novel set in the Middle East since her acclaimed Habibi.

Aref Al-Amri does not want to leave Oman. He does not want to leave his elementary school, his friends, or his beloved grandfather, Siddi. 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 Siddi for help. But rather than pack, Aref and Siddi go on a series of adventures. They visit the camp of a thousand stars deep in the desert, they sleep on Siddi's roof, they fish in the Gulf of Oman and dream about going to India, and they travel to the nature reserve to watch the sea turtles. At each stop, Siddi finds a small stone that he later slips into Aref's suitcasemementos of home.

Note to readers:
•  In the book, the narrator never makes it to Michigan so feel free to skip or switch between chapters.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever traveled to another country? Where?
•  Can you speak another language besides English? What language?
•  Do you want to learn another language? Why or why not?
•  Would you bring your pet on the plane?
•  Sultanate-area/land ruled over by a Sultan
•  carapace-a shell covering a turtle
•  Arabic-language of the Middle East/North Africa
•  habibti-my dear in Arabic
•  refugee-a person who leaves his country and cannot return
•  imprint- a mark made on something

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  How is Aref like a turtle of Oman?
•  What challenges would there be in moving to another country with different customs, foods etc...?
•  Have you ever made friends with a new student at school? Why not?
•  What would you pack if you had to leave your home for another country?
•  Do you think you could move to another country? Where would you move to?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a decoupage Turtle like the cover--cut out a turtle shape from construction paper or draw a turtle shape on a piece of paper. Take used magazines or newspapers (or other scraps of colored paper) and cut/tear into small pieces. Glue the pieces on the shell of the turtle to create a pattern.
•  Make a suitcase and pack it with items you need if you were to move: Take a sheet of construction paper and fold it hamburger style (short way); draw handles and locks in the middle on the bottom where the open sides are; draw this on both sides of your suitcase; decorate the top and back of the luggage with "stickers" or names of where you traveled or want to travel--don't forget your luggage tag; open the paper up and you have two sides of the suitcase; draw the items you would take if you were to travel; you can also cut out items from a old magazine of items you would take and glue them into your suitcase.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!