Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet ISBN: 9781444951226
Published by Hachette, 2019
This super-cool novel about a Muslim boy who has an imagination to die for, a loving family, and a tendency to get into lots of trouble has the added attraction of helping us to learn lots about the Muslim faith and customs without being the least bit ‘preachy’. Omar and his family (parents, older sister, and three year old brother) have had to move house because of his mum’s new job, and Omar is not looking forward to his new school. However, the first day he meets Charlie and there is immediate friendship, but he also meets Daniel the class bully, and this is not good news. At first only small things happen, but the bullying escalates, and neither Omar nor Charlie feel safe. Telling parents isn’t an option, but when Daniel says to Omar that he will be chased out of the country and will have to go back to where he came from, this is serious. Meanwhile, at home, the family’s new neighbour, Mrs Roberts, is also very unfriendly until she has a fall and it is Omar’s mother who helps her and gets her to hospital. Mrs Roberts learns, along with us, that the Muslims next door are lovely neighbours. Daniel also eventually learns that Omar can be a good friend and Omar realises that the reason Daniel has been so unkind is that his young sister has been seriously ill and his parents spend all their time with her. The whole tenor of the story is funny and gloriously portrayed, even the serious bits, and the style is full of little integrated big, black words and pictures and type changes, all of which make it quite an easy read. We learn lots about the family’s religious customs and why Omar loves Eid so much, and he comes over as a delightful, intelligent kid, who, while unintentionally a trouble-maker, is also lovable and great fun. We are promised other stories about Omar and his family and friends, and that can only be a great thing!