Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet, by Zanib Mian/Illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik, (Feb. 2020, G.P. Putnam), $13.99, ISBN: 9780593109212
Meet Omar! He’s a young Muslim boy living in the UK, and has just moved to a new neighborhood and school so his mom could accept her dream job. He’s got an imaginary dragon for a friend and pet, he’s creative and imaginative, and… he finds himself the target of the school bully. Originally published in abroad in 2018 as The Muslims, Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet is hilarious, sweet, and brilliantly tackles Islamophobia, all from a kid’s point of view.
Written from Omar’s point of view and illustrated a la Wimpy Kid, Accidental Trouble Magnet introduces us to Omar’s family: his parents, his siblings, the bully who becomes enraged at the idea of Muslims, and the sweet little old lady next door who constantly talks to someone one the phone about what “The Muslims” are doing. Omar’s parents handle the next door neighbor with grace and aplomb, always extending the hand of friendship. Omar is informative about Muslim traditions – we learn about Eid and Ramadan; his excitement about attempting to take part in the fast (so he can be up in the middle of the night to eat), and about the hijab his mother wears (no, she doesn’t shower with it). Zanib Mian convincingly writes with Omar’s voice and introduces us to a friendly kid who wants to let you know about him – and wants to let you know that he can’t wait for his holiday gifts; he loves sweets, and he loves his culture and wants to share it with you, too. Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet is an upbeat, fun intermediate story that serves as a wonderful introduction to Muslim culture. It encourages empathy, compassion, and understanding. It promotes patience with others who make rash judgements, and encourages all of us to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be.
Have readers who love Saadia Faruqi’s Yasmin books and are ready to take on a longer chapter book? Introduce them to Omar! I’d love to see this on Summer Reading Lists this year, nudge nudge.
Accidental Trouble Magnet received the 2018 Little Rebels Award, was nominated for the 2019 Carnegie Medal, and longlisted for the 2019 UKLA Award. See more about the book on Muslim Children’s Books UK.
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