Omar is back, and the nine year old kid with a huge imagination, proves that his heart is even bigger. Middle graders that loved the first version, The Muslims, and the reboot, Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet, will undoubtedly love this book’s adventures and the real, relate-abl, presentation of Islam in a Muslim family. While it references the first book, it can work as a stand alone book too, and can and will be enjoyed by kids and adults, girls and boys, Muslims and non Muslims. At 217 pages, the large spaces, doodles, playful fonts, and illustrations, make the book fly by and beg to be read again and again.
Omar’s family still has their Science Sundays, but they don’t visit a new mosque every Saturday, as they have found a mosque near their home that gives his parents, “secret smiles” and them all a sense of community. Omar and his sister still bicker, and his little brother Esa is still lovable, and the former bully, Daniel, is now a great friend to Omar and Charlie. Life is good, Alhumdulillah, but in the midst of the boys planning how to get laser guided Nerf guns and have an all out battle, Omar learns the mosque’s roof is in need of repair and that the congregation will need to come up with 30,000 pounds to cover the costs, and fast. In an act of selflessness, Omar abandons his dream of a foam gun and donates to the masjid. Seeing that is not going to be anywhere close to enough he plots and schemes with his friends, his non Muslim friends, on how to raise the funds. They bake cookies, make origami birds, and get their school to host a talent show to raise the money. Their teacher and the head teacher coordinate the hall and judges and winning prizes all to help out Omar and the mosque, in the end though, they raise just under 1,500 pounds. Not enough by themselves, but a great contribution to what other people hopefully are scrounging up. The worst part however isn’t that they didn’t make enough, but that what they did make, goes missing. Omar, Charlie, and Daniel, along with the parents and police and school personnel, try and find the money and who might have taken it before time runs out.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love how effortlessly the author adopts a nine-year-old’s voice and persona. So many of the details, for example, about how the school administration signed off on a fundraiser for a religious building, and how tickets were sold, and the planning took place are left out, as a nine year old, probably wouldn’t know, or be concerned with the logistics of such endeavors. It seemed like some details should be given, but I doubt readers would feel that way, so I pushed it aside and went along for the ride.
Omar has amazing friends, from the unpredictable old neighbor lady, to his non Muslim friends being so enthusiastic and supportive of saving a mosque. I love it, and that they are that way because Omar is so unapologetically Muslim first. They even discuss a hadith about how building a mosque, builds you a house in Jannah, and a mainstream book published this, and it is AMAZING! It isn’t just a kid and his family, who happen to be Muslim, the whole plot of the book is to save a mosque, and the fact that this book exists, seriously is so beautiful, and powerful, and hopeful, Alhumdulillah.
This book has a lot of layers, most kids won’t pick up on the interfaith aspects being so ground breaking, or the beauty of teachers and parents believing and supporting young kids, but will just read it as a funny story with anecdotes and inside jokes that they get as kids, as Muslims, and maybe even as Desis. It truly is the culmination of an author who can write well, characters that our kids can see themselves in, and an opportunity to tell our OWN stories that make this book work for kids, adults and everyone in between.
Omar and his sister are mean at times, but alas love each other and look out for each other too.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I don’t do an elementary book club, but if I did, I would do this book in a heartbeat. For middle school it would be too quick of a read, but I think all classrooms and all libraries should have the book, up through middle school.
I got my copy here in the US at www.crescentmoonstore.com and as always you cannot beat their customer service and prices. If you don’t have the first book, you can get it there, too. Thank you Noura and Crescent Moon Store.