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In this standalone companion to the middle school novel, The Turtle of Oman, 8-year-old Aref Al-Amri and his mother are finally set to leave their homeland, Oman, to go to Ann Arbor, Mich., where Aref’s parents are enrolled in a three-year graduate program at a nearby university. Aref’s father had gone ahead of them to secure an apartment for the family.   

Aref is excited at the prospect of discovering a whole new part of the world, but he’s also sad because he has to leave behind his cherished grandfather, Sidi. In the weeks prior to Aref’s departure, he and Sidi had shared numerous adventures, including traveling to a nature reserve to observe sea turtles. Aref is amazed by the majestic creatures and falls in love with turtles.  

When Aref enters his new bedroom, he discovers a glass tank. He asks his father what it is. His father replies, “We will find you a turtle.” Aref learns that the glass tank is a terrarium. Now he’s really excited! He will have his very own turtle in his new country.  

As Aref adjusts to his new school and watches his peers interact, he’s filled with worries and questions: “Would he find new friends and walk with other people soon? Would he belong? Would he still feel like himself? Or would he keep feeling a bit lost?”  

With compassion and deep sensitivity for children engaging in unsettling and life-changing immigrant experiences, author Naomi Shihab Nye relates how Aref admirably navigates his new world, making a surprising decision about a Michigan turtle and having his greatest wish realized. Many fascinating facts about Michigan and Oman’s nature, history, and culture are woven throughout the book. (Greenwillow Books)


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